The Government yesterday agreed that the current public health restrictions on sport and exercise – including the restrictions on football and other field sports – will be extended until 5 April. The current epidemiological situation is such that it does not permit Government consideration at this time of the resumption of football training. The Government's clear message at the present time is for people to stay in their homes, unless necessary for those essential reasons set out in the public health regulations.
The Government has this week published the COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery Plan 2021 – The Path Ahead and agreed that the public health restrictions will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness. The public health advice is that it is too early to say how and when other restrictions should be eased given current uncertainties. Government will meet in advance of the 5th of April to review the level of restrictions. The focus of the assessment, based on the public health advice, will be on achieving the following before any significant easing of measures is contemplated: Disease prevalence (case numbers/incidence) is brought to much lower levels that can be managed and controlled by public health and that the reproduction number (“R” number) is such that we can be confident that we can continue to suppress the 1. disease e.g. at or below
2. Hospital and critical care occupancy are reduced to low levels to protect the health service and allow for the safe resumption of non-COVID-19 care.
3. Ongoing and steady progress on the vaccination programme such that the most vulnerable are protected through vaccination.
4. Emerging information on variants of concern.
Any easing of measures should be slow and gradual with sufficient time between phases to assess impact and to respond if the epidemiological situation was to deteriorate. It will take account of emerging international and national evidence and experience and with a specific focus on supporting mental health and wellbeing. The Government has agreed that the following areas may be considered if the situation improves sufficiently:
- Some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond 1 other household.
- Consideration of extending the current 5km limit.
- Staggered start of easing of other areas of activity with a focus on outdoor activities including sport and some areas of construction.
Minister Martin and I will continue our engagement with Sport Ireland and the sporting bodies with a view to bringing proposals at the appropriate time for consideration by Government, in consultation with NPHET and the public health authorities.