As you will be aware, the public health restrictions at level 5 of the Government's Framework Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 will remain in place until 5th April 2021, when a further review will be conducted. The Framework continues to provide an appropriate mechanism to guide decision-making, and it will continue to be supplemented by more detailed sectoral guidance in relation to measures that apply at each level of the Framework.
On 23 February, 2021, the Government published COVID-19 Resilience & Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead which sets out how in-school education and childcare services will be reinstated in a phased manner from 1 March, with staggered return throughout March to be concluded after the Easter break on 12 April. Information on the revised plan is available here – https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/c4876-covid-19-resilience-and-recovery-2021-the-path-ahead/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/ThePathAhead/.
The objectives of this revised plan are as follows:
- To make steady progress, starting with childcare and schools, while avoiding a further wave of disease and re-imposition of restrictions.
- To protect the most vulnerable by an efficient rollout of the vaccination programme.
- To remain vigilant and agile regarding the uncertainties in the face of new variants and to capitalise on emerging evidence on available vaccines.
- To lay the foundations for the full recovery of social life, public services and the economy.
The Path Ahead, states that the “situation will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness”.
While there is cause to be hopeful that things will improve over the course of the year, an assessment of the future trajectory of the disease is subject to uncertainties and unknowns in relation to variants and vaccine effectiveness and uptake levels. For the next two months the immediate measures are intended to ensure we have far more options in the medium to longer term.
The public health advice in relation to Covid-19 is kept under continuous review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), by my Department and by the Government. The Government will meet in advance of the 5th of April to review the level of restrictions.