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Lockdown restrictions for children and nursing home residents to ease from next week - Harris

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Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

Lockdown restrictions for children and nursing home residents will be eased from next week despite an increase in the 'R' figure - known as the rate of infection, Health Minister Simon Harris said today.

It is expected next week’s phase two of the roadmap to reopen the country will see the go ahead for summer camps, playgrounds, classes for special needs children and guidelines to allow visits to nursing homes and other residential centres.

However, he told the Dail today that since the first phase of roadmap which started nearly three weeks ago the R figure has slightly increased.

"I can confirm today that our modelling work has shown a slight increase in the R rate.

This week, the data suggests the reproduction number in Ireland is between 0.4 and 0.7. This is a key metric of ours," he said.

The R shows the average number of people each COVID-19 patient infects.

"As this House knows, we need to keep the effective reproduction number below 1.0 and cases low to minimise force of infection, otherwise we carry a risk of an increase in cases and larger outbreaks of disease.

"The key measures of severity also continue to fall. There were 37 people in intensive care and 166 people in hospital on Wednesday this week.

"We have made progress and we have saved lives, but we must continue to make that progress or we risk this disease getting ahead of us.

"Our roadmap is clear that forward progress in reopening our society and our economy is not inevitable. It is dependent on the threat of the disease.

"We do not have a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19 but we are not powerless. We have learned how to protect ourselves and others from this disease. We will make progress only if we continue, day in and day out, to practice what we know.

"If we wash our hands, cover our coughs and sneezes, and respect the two metre rule we will make progress."

He said NPHET met and considered the impact of this pandemic on two age groups.

" The virus has had been particularly difficult for children and older people and tomorrow, I expect Government will make an announcement on how we can further support those who have borne particular challenges.

"After so many weeks of hardship and sacrifice, I am conscious that we all have a strong wish to leave this disease behind us and to move forward to better times.

"The progress that we have made against COVID-19 has allowed us to begin reopening our country but we must remain cautious and clear-sighted about where we are."

He warned that " we have successfully interrupted the transmission of the disease, but it has not been eliminated. The World Health Organisation has said that it may be with us for a long time to come, either at lower levels of transmission or as “waves” of higher infection rates.

"The number of new confirmed cases each day continues to be lower than it has been in previous weeks, but it is at a similar level to what it was mid-March when we first brought in our public health measures."

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