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Level 5: Harris says people a bit overwhelmed but there is hope

By Fergal O'Brien RTÉ news

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has said living in Level 5 restrictions at this time of year is "much tougher" than the situation in March.

Speaking to RTÉ 2fm's Breakfast with Doireann and Eoghan, Minister Harris said: "People are feeling a bit overwhelmed at this stage. We've been here before."

"But it is not quite the same as in March. We've kept the schools open. You can exercise up to 5km from your house. You can exercise with a friend outside," he said.

"We're doing this to try and have some degree of normality around Christmas."

He added: "It has been very tough on young people. If you think of a typical 18-year-old, they're Leaving Cert didn't go ahead, they couldn't have a graduation, their debs were cancelled," he said.

He acknowledged the social aspect of college was more difficult and it was more challenging to find a part-time job. "This is not forever. There is a hope, very encouraging signs around a vaccine," he added. "It is far too early to declare victory but what we're doing is having the desired effect," Minister Harris said.

"We should be putting in really robust plans for vaccines, to roll out supply," he added.

The National Public Health Emergency Team will hold its weekly meeting today to review the latest Covid-19 trends.

It is one week since the Level 5 restrictions were introduced to suppress Covid-19 in Ireland.

Members of NPHET will meet later to assess the current situation and compliance with the measures, which are due to remain in place for another five weeks.

Yesterday, 675 new virus cases were announced - the lowest figure since 9 October.

It means the number of daily cases has been below 1,000 on five of the last seven days.

The 14-day incidence rate - the number of cases per 100,000 of the population - has also dropped and is below 300, at 299, for the first time in a week.

However, public health officials have stressed in recent days that it is too early to say if there are any definitive trends emerging.

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