Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Health
The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an
indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner.
In relation to people with underlying health conditions, the Roadmap states the following:
“The continued protection of people aged over 70 and those with underlying health conditions is in line with recommendations of WHO, ECDC and EU Commission which all recognise the importance of protecting the vulnerable populations. International and national evidence shows that those over 70 years and people with specific underlying health conditions are groups with an elevated risk for COVID-19. On this basis, it is recommended that the cocooning measures for the over 70s and for those in at risk groups be continued”.
The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:
1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:
a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,
b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,
c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,
d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,
3. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.
2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.
3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.
4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.
As is clear from the framework, it is the Government rather than I or my Department that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made.
On 9 May the “Return to Work Safely Protocol - COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers” was published. It provides clear guidance to employers and to workers on the measures that must be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Protocol was developed through the cooperation of the Health and Safety Authority, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the HSE and my Department. It is designed to be used by all workplaces to adapt their procedures and practices to provide protection against the threat of COVID-19.
In relation to vulnerable or at risk workers the Protocol advises that if an at risk or vulnerable worker cannot work from home and must be in the workplace, employers must make sure that they are preferentially supported to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres. However, employers should enable vulnerable workers to work from home where possible.
The Protocol is not static. There will be ongoing engagement at a national level between stakeholders on its implementation and it is subject to change in line with the latest public health advice or other developments in order to maximise the protection it will afford in our workplaces.