Ireland’s Prime Minister has criticised the British Government for what he called a “let it rip” approach to the easing of Covid restrictions.
Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach, said it was “steady wins the battle” as he headed for an Irish cabinet meeting to decide measures for the reopening of a country in which restrictions remain far stricter than those in England.
The Dublin meeting coincided with a Downing Street press conference at which Boris Johnson said that “now is the time to proceed with extreme caution” but added that the approach should shift towards “personal responsibility”.
While the legal requirement to wear masks on public transport in England will be lifted from July 19, no such freedoms will be afforded to Irish citizens.
The easing of restrictions in Ireland is expected to permit fully vaccinated people to start enjoying one hour and 45 minutes inside a restaurant, while those still awaiting their jabs will have to remain outside. Hotels are also set to be able to open catering facilities to people who are not residents.
There has been debate in Ireland over the government’s reluctance to reopen summer camps for children, but Mr Martin warned that 10 per cent of all cases in Ireland are of long Covid, which affects young people.
“I certainly don’t want to be presiding over something that just sort of said it’s ok if young people get Covid. Steady wins the battle, in my view,” he said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dublin has imposed some of the strictest lockdowns, with some of the most severe punishments for breaches, in the world. Breaches of quarantine can result in fines of up to €5,000 or six months in prison.
The country has fully vaccinated 41 per cent of people, compared to Britain’s nearly 52 per cent.
EU member states have remained reluctant to reopen travel from the UK over fears about the spread of the more infectious delta variant.