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/.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, the Government has been guided at all times by the emerging scientific understanding of the virus and in particular has been in receipt of advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The advice of NPHET is usually provided in the form of a letter to the Minister for Health from the Chief Medical Officer, in his role as the Chair of NPHET. This advice is subsequently published on the Government website. It has set out a consistent set of advices and recommendations that are available for inspection by all.
The Government has always been clear that a “zero covid” option is not one that is available to Ireland due to a number of factors, most pertinently the border with Northern Ireland and the Common Travel Area. Our proximity to Europe and the nature of the supply chains we are part of, both as an exporter and importer of vital goods, are also relevant in any considerations here.
The clear advice from NPHET has been and continues to be that our overarching objective must be to suppress the virus to the lowest level possible and to maintain it at a low level. This is essential for protecting public health and our core priorities of education, health and social care services and shielding the most vulnerable from the disease.