The Covid-19 situation in Ireland is currently “far worse” than at the end of November when the country reopened for Christmas, the Tánaiste has said.
Leo Varadkar told the weekly Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday night that the recent rise in case numbers is a “definite cause of concern”.
The figures will be taken into account when the Government meets next week to decide whether to ease restrictions in early April, he said.
Last year, Level 5 measures were lifted on December 1st after a six-week lockdown, when the national 14-day incidence rate was 87 per 100,000. That rate now stands at 159.3, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
Any easing of restrictions would emphasise outdoor activity, the Taoiseach separately informed the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night.
The Irish Times reports that Micheál Martin said a sharp increase in the number of people referred for Covid-19 testing has left Ireland’s progress in a “fragile” state.
He expressed concern over a 42 per cent week-on-week increase in the numbers referred for testing on Tuesday.
Yesterday evening, Nphet confirmed 683 new cases of Covid-19 in the State, marking the ninth day that the seven-day average of new cases has increased since March 10th.
Despite this, both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar came under pressure from party members at their parliamentary party meetings and faced calls to replace the national lockdown with localised restrictions.
The lifting of the 5km travel limit, a relaxation of rules on religious services and more certainty on when restrictions could be eased as vaccines supplies stabilised were also called for.
The Government is set to make a decision on the restrictions that will be in place after April 5th next Tuesday. Nphet on Wednesday deferred a key meeting on restrictions until next Monday, due to the changing situation in relation to Covid-19 data.