Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris says the Government hopes to move to the next stage of relaxing the lockdown on August 10, but there is no guarantee.
The re-opening of pubs, and some other activities, has been delayed from next Monday - for at least three weeks - because of concerns about a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Mr Harris said today that while the Government had pressed the pause button on moving to phase four of the re-opening plan - now back to August 10 - “these are indicative dates and entirely depend on the behaviour of the virus.”
He said the decision not to proceed with stage four at this time “really increases the ability to make sure we get our kids back to education at end of August/September.”
The minister said “getting children back to school is a major priority ”, adding that it would have been “grossly irresponsible to ignore public health advice to move forward with phase four.”
Asked whether the re-opening of pubs could be further put back beyond August 10 he replied: “Yes is honest answer but I hope that not to be the case.”
He said the Government had received very clear public health advice last night, showing that the R number – the rate at which the virus reproduces – had moved to between 1.2-1.8, which meant that for every sick person at least on more person is going to get sick and that the virus is growing again.
“That merits reflection for all of us.”
The former health minister said that “people were not powerless” in regard to what had to be done to keep the virus at bay ”it is up to every single one of us to decide what we want to do.”
He said: “We can’t freewheel here, we can’t presume that Covid is gone because it’s not.”
He addressed concerns about foreign travel, but said nine out of 10 new cases of Covid-19 had nothing to do with international travel, and said “we need to be very careful that we don’t get into this mindset where we think it is somebody else’s job to stop Covid coming into Ireland.
“It’s our job, every single one of us and success to date has been that we have all worked together and taken our personal responsibilities really seriously. We do now need to redouble those efforts."
Mr Harris said everyone had to play their part “to give us the very best chance of being able to move forward.”
The minister said that as well as the guidelines being prepared within the Department of Education for the safe re-opening of schools, his Department was finalising a framework to guide higher education institutions on their re-opening.