Government gives updates on schools, childcare, private hospitals and subsidies

Leo Varadkar
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The government has said that it intends to reopen primary and secondary schools by the end of August.

Speaking after today’s cabinet meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that they are watching what is happening in other countries as they begin to open up their schools, and an eye is also being kept on those that have had to reimpose restrictions.

He also said once the schools reopen, students may still not be able to return every day for a full day.

The Taoiseach outlined the government’s stance after a report by public health experts from the HSE found that schools are not a high-risk setting for the spread and transmission of Covid-19.

‘on track for the second phase of easing the lockdown’

Mr Varadkar also said that the country is currently on track for the second phase of easing the lockdown, adding that when it comes to accelerating the process, it is something that must be considered with safety in mind.

The government will make a decision on whether or not to speed up elements of the process next week.

It was also announced today that the deal for the use of private hospitals will cease at the end of June.

In the meantime, a deal will be sought to give the state what are termed ‘step in rights’ to use the private hospitals’ ICUs and critical care beds in the event of a second wave of the virus, while also using them for some non-Covid-19 cases.

A change has also been made to the wage subsidy scheme which will now allow women returning to work from maternity leave to qualify for the scheme. Those payments will be backdated.

Details were also released in relation to how childcare facilities will operate once they start opening at the end of June.

Minister Katherine Zappone has spoken of how children will be grouped into ‘pods’ of between six and 12 to limit any possible transmission of the virus.

The Minister for Children also admitted that she could not say how many of the country’s childcare providers will be in a position to re-open when that time comes.