Ireland to be placed in second lockdown in bid to combat Covid-19


Ireland will be placed under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe later this week in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, PA understands.

The Irish Government has agreed to impose the highest level of restrictions under its five-tiered plan for living with Covid-19 from midnight on Wednesday for six weeks in a bid to combat the rise in cases of the virus.

Cabinet ministers made the decision at a meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin this evening.

A formal announcement is expected later.

The restrictions will last until December 1.

Under the new measures it is understood schools and creches will remain open, and elite level sports will be able to continue.

Construction will also be allowed.

But most non-essential retail, hairdressers, barbers and salons will have to close.

The public will be asked to work from home except for essential workers, and pubs, restaurants and cafes will only be able to provide takeaways and deliveries.

Funerals will be limited to 10 people. It is believed up to 25 people will be allowed to attend weddings.

People will be asked to restrict their movements to within a five kilometre radius of their homes.

It comes amid a record number of cases recorded over recent days.

A further 1,031 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Monday, bringing the total to more than 50,000 for the first time.

No new deaths linked to the virus were reported.

Of the new cases, 235 were in Dublin, 232 in Cork, 60 in Galway, 47 in Limerick, 47 in Kerry, and the remaining 410 cases were spread across 21 counties.

As of 2pm on Monday afternoon, 298 people with Covid-19 were in hospitals – including 34 people in intensive care units.

Public health officials on Thursday recommended moving to Level 5 of the Covid-19 restrictions framework for six weeks.

It was the second time in a fortnight that Nphet officials had advised the Government to move to the highest level of measures.

The Government did not heed the previous advice. Instead they placed the entire country into Level 3 restrictions.

Currently counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.

Political leaders received briefings from health officials in Dublin on Saturday about their concerns over the recent rapid spread of the virus.

The Cabinet sub-committee met on Monday morning to discuss Nphet's latest advice.

The leaders of the Government parties also met to discuss the final details of the plan ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

Earlier, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan indicated that any new restrictions would not be introduced immediately saying "you don't just flick a switch".

Asked about a timeline for introducing new measures as he arrived for a sub-Cabinet meeting on Monday, he said: "We'll decide that.

"I think one of the lessons previously is you don't just flick a switch, you have to give people a wee bit of notice. But Cabinet will have to decide that."

Green Party leader Mr Ryan said he hoped the decisions reached today would give clarity to the public.

He said: "I hope there can be because that's the important part of it. The Tanaiste put it right the other day, you need a series of indicators, but that will be for Cabinet to decide. "

He also defended the length of time Government has taken to act on Nphet's advice to move to level five restrictions for six weeks, which were delivered to Health Minster Stephen Donnelly on Thursday.

"I think it's getting things right. It's complicated, there's a huge amount of implications for people's everyday lives.

"I think it's appropriate that we try and get the arrangements and the details right in that time."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that social supports must be put in place.

She also called for the cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) to be fully restored.

Ms McDonald told RTE's Morning Ireland that changes to the restrictions must be "balanced" and clearly communicated because people were going to "really struggle" and would be "worried sick" by any new restrictions.