NO MAJOR EASING of restrictions beyond the re-opening of schools are expected until May.
Its understood that the Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 heard last night that the country wont be moving from Level 5 to Level 4 restrictions for some time. 
The phased re-opening of schools is expected over March and early April.
In an interview with the Irish Mirror, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that its been a long lockdown already and I would say to people its worth it.
We are looking at a continuation of severe restrictions right into April, he said. Weve already certainly indicated that beyond Easter well look at it again but until the end of April you can look at significant restrictions and well review it after that then because well have to see where we are.
The news of no significant easing until May comes as public health officials said last night that while Covid-19 numbers are still going in the right direction, progress has now slowed down. 
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said that this is likely due to the increased prevalence of the UK B117 variant, which he said is now 90% of all Covid-19 cases in Ireland.
We are maintaining suppression, but its precarious, said Nolan, who estimated the reproduction number to be between 0.65 and 0.85.
Previously in a letter to government last Thursday, Dr Glynn had expected case numbers to be between 300 and 100 a day in mid-March.
According to Nolan, modelling now shows that case numbers are expected to fall between 400 and 500 cases per day at the beginning of March, then falling to between 200 and 350 in the middle of March, if the reproduction number can be kept between 0.7 and 0.9.
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The government is expected to announce its new plan for living with Covid-19 next week. 
It is hoped that vaccination roll out will significant ramp up while strict restrictions remain in place. 
The vaccination of people within the over-85 age group began earlier this week. 
With reporting from Christina Finn

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