— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 30, 2020
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris at a press conference at Government Buildings this evening
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris are holding a press conference at Government Buildings to speak about the new public private partnership with private healthcare providers in response to Covid-19.
During the press conference, Hugh O’Connell, of the Irish Independent, asked Mr Varadkar if he could indicate when Ireland might “start to return to normality”.
Mr Varadkar said he didn’t know.
The question follows Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, saying yesterday that normal life will not likely resume in the UK for at least six months.
In his response, Mr Varadkar said:
“To be honest with you, we don’t know for sure. You know, this is a new virus and you can only be so much of an expert on a virus that’s only been known to the world for three or four months and some of the estimations and assumptions we might have had two or three weeks ago are different now and they may be different again in two or three weeks again.
“What is going to happen this evening is Philip Nolan, who’s heading up our group on modelling, is going to speak at the press conference tonight with the chief medical officer [Tony Holohan] and the idea is that every week or so the model will be updated and that will be shared with the public because we want to be as transparent as possible.
“But in being transparent we need people to understand that by putting information out there, and we want to put all the information out there, it may turn out to be incorrect and you’ll just have to bear with us on that in many ways or it may change over time.
“Certainly what the UK is talking about and I think what a lot of people around the world are talking about now is that there will come a point after the epidemic is peaked and the number of new cases starts falling, when we will start to ease the restrictions and then we’ll have to see what happens so we won’t be in a situation whereby I suddenly go on TV and make an address to the nation and say everything is going back to the way it was on the 11th of March.
“That’s probably not what’s going to happen. What is likely to happen is that the number of new cases will continue to rise, we’ll reach a peak, hopefully that will be in a few weeks’ time and not in a few months’ time.
“The number of new cases will start to fall and will reach the point where we can start to ease some of the restrictions and then see what happens, whether the number of cases starts to rise again or not.”
Later, Jennifer Bray, of The Irish Times, asked Mr Harris about the shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) that Ireland has ordered from China.
Ms Bray asked if Ireland has any “guarantees” about the quality of the items, in light of the Netherlands recalling hundreds of thousands of masks that it received from China.
This morning, China’s Ambassador to Ireland He Xiangdong told RTÉ’s Rachael English that China would do its best.
Mr Harris said:
“In relation to the quality of the PPE coming into the country, Paul Reid [CEO of the HSE], the head of the HSE, has publicly said that any PPE purchased by the HSE needs to meet World Health Organisation standards and also will be checked on arrival.
“So it’s a job that the HSE needs to do, they’ve a duty of care to their staff and we obviously need to ensure that any PPE distributed throughout the health service meets the WHO standards and they certainly said that’s absolutely their intention and view in relation to the equipment they bought.”
Earlier: “I Think That We Will Try Our Best”