Varadkar defends "differentiated" mandatory quarantine approach

ireland
Varadkar Defends "Differentiated" Mandatory Quarantine Approach
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
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Vivienne Clarke

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has defended the Government’s “differentiated approach” to mandatory quarantine, saying that it made no sense to put everyone who arrived into the country into quarantine in a hotel if they were from a country that had low transmission levels.

“Why would you put someone from the Isle of Man into hotel quarantine when there is no Covid there?” he said on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

It did not make sense to treat South Africa the same as Iceland, he added. By the summer there could be “travel bubbles” with some countries that were safe.

Mr Varadkar said he understood people were anxious, depressed, fatigued and that it was difficult to stay positive. But the virus was in retreat and the number of new cases was down considerably which was because of what people were doing.

Metrics

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When asked about providing specific dates, the Tánaiste said that the “strong advice” was that it was not a good idea to set exact metrics.

“The politician in me wants exact numbers. A numbers guy like me would like to give them, but it's more about the trends,” he said.

The four key metrics by which the lifting of restrictions would have to be measured were: if the level of hospitalisations and the numbers in ICU were half what they are now, the R number was below one, the vaccination programme continued on schedule and if there were any new variants.

The key issue would be the “trend”, if the trend were to go the wrong way then the Government would act, he said.

When asked if the reopening of schools was dependent on that trend, Mr Varadkar said that if it was found that the return to school led to a spike in transmissions then they would close.

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A more cautious approach was being taken this time about the return to school with the phased approach. “Schools are safe environments, but no environment is 100 percent safe” The new B117 variant was a factor which was why reopenings had been staggered, he explained. “In the event it goes wrong we can back out of it.”

Construction

Mr Varadkar said that the return of the construction sector had not been possible because of public health concerns, if there had been failures in communication about this, he said the Government would have to take responsibility for that.

“Yesterday was an opportunity for a re-set. There is a very clear plan of what is and what isn’t going to happen in the next 10 weeks. There is a clear message and a clear road map.”

The Tánaiste said he was confident that the vaccination programme could be completed as scheduled, but he acknowledged that there were some factors outside the control of the Government.

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