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Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has said the Irish government and public health officials need to move on from a row about Covid-19 restrictions.

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On Sunday, the cabinet rejected a recommendation that the whole country should move to level 5 of its Living with Covid-19 plan.

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The measures would have been similar to the spring lockdown.

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Instead, ministers put the whole state on level 3.

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This means people are asked not to leave their county except for essential reasons and are encouraged to work from home wherever possible.

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One coronavirus-related death was recorded in the Republic on Thursday bringing the death toll to 1,817.

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A further 506 new cases of Covid-19 were also reported.

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On Monday, Mr Varadkar described the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation, which would have allowed schools and crèches to remain open as “a bolt out of the blue.”

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In the Dáil (lower house of parliament) on Thursday afternoon he said he was first informed of the recommendation on Sunday evening and in writing at 20:30 local time just 30 minutes before Irish broadcaster RTÉ reported what NPHET was proposing.

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It should not be about the government versus NPHET, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil, adding: “This is Ireland versus the virus.”

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Hospital capacity

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The tánaiste repeated his criticism that moving to level 5 had “not been thought through” including the implications of the Northern Ireland dimension in the shared goal of reducing the spread of the virus.

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Questioned by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, Mr Varadkar denied there was a lack of hospital capacity.

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The tánaiste said the government had added 800 hospital beds – 150 of which were being used by Covid-19 patients – and there were now an additional 60 ICU beds since the spring lockdown, bringing the total to 225, with 25 being used by Covid patients.

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He said the country would be able to cope if there was a surge in coronavirus cases and was in a better position to do so than some other countries whose health services “get a better press”.

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NPHET officials met on Thursday to discuss their concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

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It said it remains deeply concerned about the rising levels, however did not recommend tightening restrictions.

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the situation had deteriorated further since Sunday.

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