Ireland will remain in the current Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions until at least April 5, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has announced.
The original restrictions were set to cease on March 5 but they have now been extended for a further four weeks – but there are some changes.
Leaving Cert students as well as the junior infants, senior infants, first class and second class children in primary school will return on March 1.
Childcare services are set to re-open starting with the ECCE scheme on March 8.
Fifth year students and the remainder of the primary school students are set to return on March 15.
While the rest of the pre-school sector is set to reopen on March 29.
While the remainder of the secondary school years are due to return to education on April 12.
Non-Covid health and social care services will also resume over the next few weeks.
The review of the next steps on reopening will take place in the coming weeks.
From April 5, the government is considering easing restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings, the 5km limit, and staggered return of other issues like sport.
But in order to do this, the Taoiseach says, we need to drive down community transmission in the month of March.
We need to get the numbers of people in hospital down.
And thirdly, we need to ramp up our vaccination programme – and this will happen very soon.
1.25m doses are to be administered by the end of March. While 1m doses will be issued per month in April, May and June.
Pandemic Unemployment Payment, Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit, Covid Restrictions Support Scheme, Suspension of redundancy provisions and
Commercial rates waiver have all been extended to 30 June 2021.
He said: “We are all completely fed up with the impositions on our lives.
“The sacrifices you have made have had a very positive impact. Our progress to the latest wave is among the best in Europe; however the situation we and all of Europe find ourselves in today is very different to where we were just a few short months ago.
“The emergence of the B117 variant is effectively the equivalent of a new virus and it has changed the dynamic significantly and we need to tread carefully forward.
“When we open things, we want them to stay open.
“By the end of June, up to 82% of adults will have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We will get through this… but I want to make sure that when we open something it stays open.”
“We will continue to proceed carefully and cautiously. The end is in sight.”