“Only a scientific breakthrough – a vaccine or an effective anti-viral medicine – will truly allow life to go back to being as it was.”
Those were the words of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he spoke earlier this afternoon (Thursday, April 15th).
He said other breakthroughs – such a reliable antibody test – could “really help though”.
He expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the 444 people who have died as a consequence of coronavirus in Ireland to date.
“444 people – not statistics, but citizens, people with families, with friends, with lives, with stories.”
“People who will remember them, people who will mourn and we mourn for them too.”
3 broad areas
He said the country’s response to the current pandemic has focused on three broad areas;
- Building capacity in our health service to respond to both new public health requirements (testing, contract tracing, social distancing, quarantine) and the potential surge in demand for our health and social care services (beds, staff, ventilators);
- Finding ways to protect the most at risk, the old, frail and chronically ill, those who the virus targets, and deal with the challenges that presents for those who have to cocoon or restrict movements;
- Developing policies and programmes to mitigate the impact on the economy and employees. To keep businesses alive. To keep people on the payroll. To ensure income support for those who have laid off. To prepare for a “rapid economy recovery” when the time comes.
“Our over-riding priority in the days and weeks ahead is the protection and survival of as many people as possible. To minimise the loss of life.”.
“In the times ahead, there are three questions we need to consider as an Oireachtas. The first is when we can begin to lift the current restrictions and start getting things back to normal bit-by-bit.”
“The second is what we need to do to get people back to work and revive and rebuild our economy.”
“The third is how we can take what we have learned in recent weeks, some the things we have done to build a better society in the aftermath of COVID-19. “
“The answer to the first question is being developed as we speak, based on expert opinion.”
He said Ireland has the advantage of being able to look at some countries that are a few weeks ahead and seeing how their strategies are working.”
“I do not know yet if we will be able to relax restrictions on May 5th. I do know that if we can, it will be gradual and will happen over a number of months.”
He said the second and third questions are ones that must be answered by the new government.
He outlined that every single person in the Oireachtas will have a role to play in shaping those responses, whether as part of the government, or by playing a constructive role in opposition.