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Non-essential shops unlikely to reopen as restrictions ease - Martin


Chief medical officer Tony Holohan had message for employers

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan had message for employers

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan had message for employers

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that non-­essential retail is unlikely to reopen after March 5 when current restrictions are due to be lifted.

The country is due to exit Level 5 at that point. However,  Mr Martin said he was committed to the "prolonged ­suppression" of the virus.

He was speaking as figures released yesterday revealed that the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) had been notified of 1,247 new cases of Covid-19, and 15 additional deaths related to the virus.

Mr Martin said: "The Government will be having a series of meetings over the next while to deal with the medium-term situation."

However, he stressed that he saw education and construction as "immediate priorities", and he said the Government will look at other sectors.

"But I do not see a major reopening after March 5 quite yet," Mr Martin said on  This Week  on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday. "A lot will depend on the numbers.

"We need to be conservative, and we need to be cautious in terms of what we do on March 5."

Hospitality will likely have to wait longer, for a wider vaccination of the population, he said, adding that he had  been straight with people on the roll-out.

Meanwhile, he said a "critical mass" of Irish people will be vaccinated by the autumn, despite the AstraZeneca row.


But Ireland is down around 300,000 doses as a result of that vaccine company's announcement that it will not be able to fully meet its contractual obligations to the EU.

Ireland is expected to receive 1.1 million doses in the immediate weeks ahead, instead of an expected 1.4 million, Mr Martin said.

"We're hoping that we can make up some of that."

Last night it was expected that Ireland would receive another 90,000 doses after the EU announced that AstraZeneca had agreed to deliver another nine million doses in the first quarter of this year.

Mr Martin said he anticipated that May, June and July will be significant months of vaccination for the broad mass of the population.

Vaccinations remained "a moving target",  he said. "We have to be careful in giving precise commitments around vaccines because it does depend on supply," he said.

Separately, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday: "There is an onus on employers to ensure that, in the first instance, staff are encouraged to work from home and in cases where that is not possible, that their workplaces are safe for staff and customers and in full compliance with infection prevention and control measures.

"The HPSC has comprehensive guidance on outbreak management and infection prevention control measures that every employer should be familiar with and activating on their premises.

"I encourage all employers and managers to review their workplaces and ensure they have effective measures in place," he said.

There were 1,516 Covid-19 patients hospitalised yesterday, compared to 1,492 patients hospitalised on Saturday. The numbers in intensive care units remained the same on both days, at 211 patients.