Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that any easing of restrictions after March 5th will be gradual and only if the number of cases is low. There will be no going from Level 5 to Level 3 on that date.
The number of cases would have to be in the low hundreds and the numbers in ICU down to 50 and the most vulnerable would have to be vaccinated, he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.
Mr Varadkar also defended the Government’s mandatory quarantine plans, but said it would take a few weeks to “operationalise this” and that primary and secondary legislation would be required.
The Fine Gael leader warned that restricting international travel was not “a silver bullet” as fewer than one percent of cases could be attributed to international travel.
A hotel at the airport would be required and staff trained, he said.
Initially the numbers involved would be “quite small”, but the Government wanted the capability to expand the facility more widely, if the EU required such measures to be extended to other countries.
Coordination with Northern Ireland, the UK and the EU would be needed, he said.
“This is an opportunity to build capacity and to learn how hotel quarantine works.”
There were lots of practical difficulties that would need to be worked out, he said, but in the meantime a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours was still required for people arriving into the country.
When asked about the enforcement of the mandatory quarantine in people’s homes (Irish residents), Mr Varadkar said he did not envisage gardaí calling to people’s homes “that’s where enforcement will arise.” But he warned that enforcement could never be 100 percent. That was where the “disincentive effect” and legislation came in.
Gardaí would have the capacity to prosecute people who were supposed to be quarantining if they were found outside their home.
Garda management had been consulted by the Department for Justice about the plans which was the norm, he said.
With regard to the Leaving Cert, Mr Varadkar said he expected a decision on this year’s exam to be made “within the next few weeks” following discussions with all the stakeholders.
There were a number of options including predicted grades, a modified exam or the choice option.