By Kevin Galvin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that ‘severe’ lockdown’ will continue for another nine weeks at least, as Ireland continues its recovery from the third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with the Irish Mirror, Martin revealed that the current lockdown, which began at the beginning of January, will continue until the end of April.

It means, since the Government announced level five restrictions on October 19th of last year, the country will spend six months in total under the most severe level of restrictions – save for a three week respite in December.

However, that may not be the end of the current level five restrictions, with Martin noting that the government will then review the restrictions at the end of April “to see where we are.”

While the Taoiseach also indicated that pubs and restaurants and personal services such as hairdressers, may stay closed well beyond the nine week date, while also confirming that there will not be a full return to the construction sector by March 5.

“It’s been a long lockdown already and I would say to people it’s worth it…” Martin told the Irish Mirror “…because we know the vaccines are coming out and we already see that vaccines are improving the situations in our hospitals and nursing homes because the disease is coming down in both locations which is indicative of the vaccination programme.”

It’s after it was revealed that schools will begin their phased reopening from the start of March but Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place, under plans discussed by Ministers on Thursday evening.

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 met representatives of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) as Ministers continued to work on finalising the Government’s revised “Living with Covid-19” plan.

The plan is expected to include a phased reopening of schools beginning with Leaving Cert students and younger primary school pupils.

Leaving Cert students will likely return on March 1st with junior and senior infants.

However, some students will not be back in the classroom until after Easter as Nphet recommended a cautious approach to reopening.

There was broad agreement at the meeting that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will need to be extended until the summer.

The plan will have to be approved by the full Cabinet next week.

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