Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has outlined three measures we can all implement in our daily lives to stem the tide of Covid-19 and avoid tougher restrictions.
While the former Health Minister admitted it is “more than likely” that other counties around the country will face escalating restrictions in line with Level 4 measures introduced for Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, he insisted, "it’s not inevitable that we go that way.”
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne show on Thursday, Minister Harris said there are three things we can do as citizens to prevent such a move to further restrictions, although he admitted we have “a very small window” to make meaningful change.
The three things he said were working from home, cutting out social household visits and to wear face coverings correctly and in the required circumstances.
“I’m conscious that every single time some Government minister says ‘we need people to do more’, everyone starts shouting and roaring at the radio," Minister Harris said.
“People are wrecked, they’re exhausted, they’re fatigued, they’re stressed. This is going on a hell of a long time.”
On the working from home measure, he said the country was brilliant at it during the first lockdown. He said he understands some people can't work from home but asks employers to “show leadership” and allow staff who can work from home to do so.
He reckons the real potential game-changer in slowing the spread of Covid-19 would be the cutting out of household visits. A ban on all household visits across the country will come into effect from midnight on Thursday with limited exceptions on caring and compassionate grounds.
“When we meet with our extended families or our friends in homes, we tend to subconsciously think we’re safe. We think we can’t spread the virus to each other – and of course, that’s not true," he continued.
“In an effort to be able to spend Christmas together, we do now need to cut out the popping in for the cup of tea. And that’s tough.”
Finally, Simon Harris appealed to people to wear masks and to wear them correctly. He mentioned the countless people still wearing them just over their mouth or barely on their chin and said, "if we’re honest with each other, we’re still not all wearing them right."
It's likely a new campaign will be launched to restate the need for masks and the manner in which they should be worn.
“There’s a window here, a very small window, in this watershed moment, to try and stop going back to the very very restrictive situation we saw in March and April," Minister Harris concluded as he appealed to the people of Ireland on Thursday morning.
NPHET is meeting on Thursday to discuss the possibility of further restrictions nationwide. This meeting comes a day after the highest daily total of new Covid-19 cases was announced on Wednesday. 1,095 new cases and five deaths were recorded on Wednesday.