Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirms Level 5 until April 5, with "three differences"
"The situation we find ourselves in today is very different to a short few months ago."
Level 5 restrictions will remain in place until at least April 5, with the exception of schools and childcare services reopening, as well as some healthcare services.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the nation this evening stating that the country will remain under strict lockdown until the beginning of April.
As part of the Government's revised Living with Covid-19 plan for 2021, Martin announced two new phases - before and after April 5. The country will remain in Level 5 until this time and then restrictions will be reassessed depending on community transmission, ICU numbers, and the vaccination programme.
Martin announced "three differences in the coming six weeks:" the phased reopening of schools, the reopening of childcare, and the resuming of non-Covid related healthcare services.
Leaving Cert students, junior and senior infants, and first and second class students will be returning to class on March 1. Other primary classes and 5th year secondary school students will return on March 15, and the remaining secondary school students will return on April 12.
The early childhood pre-school scheme will return on March 8. All other childcare will return on March 29.
The Pandemic Unemployment Payment and additional financial supports for businesses will also be extended until June, and the vaccination priority list is set to be amended to move forward those with underlying medial conditions.
Martin added that 82% of Irish adults should have their first dose of the vaccine by June.
"The situation we find ourselves in today is very different to a short few months ago," Martin said. "The difference is the UK variant and it is a major problem [...] we need to be very careful as we take next steps forward.
"We are carefully and gradually reopening schools because we need to get our children back into education. When we open things, we want them to stay open."
This comes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced England's roadmap out of lockdown which surmised that mass gatherings will be permitted and nightclubs will reopen by June 21.
Here in Ireland, clubs are pubs will remain shut until further notice but will hopefully be permitted to open for longer once restrictions are lifted.
575 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Ireland today with 45 more deaths.