Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the ability to start re-opening the country depends on how every individual behaves over the next ten days.

He said while there are many positive indicators, the virus is continuing to wreak havoc, to cost lives and to make people very sick and it would not take much for the country to slip backwards and undo the "incredible progress" that's been made.

Minister Harris said he is worried that when people hear about the progress that is being made in relation to the disease they will believe the battle is won.

But, he said, the country needs to "finish the job".

He was speaking was during a visit in to a Community Assessment Hub at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, which is one of 40 that have been opened around the country to deal with Covid 19.

The minister said there are fewer new cases of Covid-19 being recorded every day in nursing homes compared to last month, with figure previously around 100 a day but is now down to around 50.

He added that any protected disclosure in relation to nursing homes will be dealt with him personally and treated with the utmost seriousness.

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Mr Harris said he is working with his colleagues in Northern Ireland to ensure they are as closely aligned as possible in their approach to easing restrictions.

He said the Government is looking at putting the declaration that people have to make when entering the country on a statutory footing.

The minister also said the Health Service Executive now has the ability to do 12,000 tests a day and will be able to test 15,000 by the middle of this month. 

The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet today to discuss where more testing could be carried out such as among vulnerable groups and in other congregated settings.

Mr Harris said he hoped today would bring certainty and clarity to Leaving Cert students and their families whose stress has been compounded by Covid-19, adding that it has not been easy to find a way forward but details will be announced later. 

To protect yourself from Covid-19 you should:

  • Keep a space of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and other people
  • Avoid communal sleeping areas
  • Avoid any crowded places
  • Not shake hands or make close contact with other people, if possible