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Varadkar doubts that the UK will be able to open by announced date

In an interview with Virgin Media, Táinaiste Leo Varadkar has said that he would be “very surprised” if the UK was able to achieve its stated targets for re-opening the British economy, and refused to give a similar timeline for Ireland.

“I would be very surprised if [the UK was] able to meet those dates, quite frankly. One thing we don’t want to do is give people a date we can’t stand over,” the Táinaiste said.

Speaking about the tentative April 5 date for beginning to ease restrictions, Varadkar laid out 4 “data points” that would let the government know whether it was the right time to start re-opening the economy. These include:

  • Is Ireland’s vaccine rollout on schedule?

  • Are there any particularly concerning variants?

  • Are daily cases falling?

  • Is pressure on hospitals and ICU wards going down?

“If the answer is yes to those questions, then we will be able to do some re-opening on the 5th of April,” he said, adding that this would be a very limited easing of restrictions.

“The kind of things that you might see happening on April 5th are potentially construction going back to work. That’s a lot of people going back to work which would be very welcome, and very important in terms of building houses. Also, the five kilometre limits being relaxed. I think we are all dying to get out a bit more and get out of this five-kilometre circle that we’re all in. Then [there will] also be the possibility of more outdoor activities being allowed. It will be outdoor at first, and then we look at the situation again about 21 days later, so that’s April 26th.”

At the same time, multiple Fianna Fáil TDs have blasted the government for the sluggish pace of the country’s vaccine rollout, with several TDs complaining at a recent parliamentary party meeting that there are many over 85s who don’t know when they will be receiving their doses.

The government so far has failed to hit its vaccination targets for the second week in a row, appearing to rapidly fall behind schedule and pushing back further and further the potential date of re-opening.

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