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'Stay at home meant some could not be safe', says Taoiseach

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is "deeply sorry" that some people are living in fear or have experienced domestic violence due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Varadkar made the remarks in the Dail as he said work was being carried out to see if the country can be almost fully reopened from mid-July.

However, the ban on mass gatherings may have to stay.

Th Taoiseach said gardai had charged more than 100 men with domestic abuse offences in recent weeks.

"Unfortunately, for some the message of stay at home meant they could not stay safe because their homes are not safe places," he said.

"To all those living in fear because of domestic abuse or having experienced violence, I'm deeply sorry that the restrictions have made things more difficult for you."

Mr Varadkar said help was available through gardai, by reaching out to family and friends and with government helplines.

Earlier, he said the Government was carrying out "extensive work" with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on a revised phase three and four of the plan for reopening Ireland.

He suggested the country can be almost fully opened by the middle of July instead of the middle of August as originally planned.

"Some measures, such as public health advice and the ban on mass gatherings, may need to continue for some time," he said.

He added that it was still too early to assess the impact of the latest phase of reopening, but "early indications are favourable".

Optimistic

"As a country, we're optimistic but cautious. We're hopeful, while avoiding unnecessary risk," he said.

Mr Varadkar said the government strategy was to suppress the virus to very low levels and zero if possible by keeping the R-number - reproductive number - below one.

No strategy would insulate the country from the risk of the virus re-emerging, he said, and pointed out that a border is shared with the North, which has unrestricted travel access to Great Britain.