The Government has announced that all family prison visits will be suspended, in a bid to thwart an increase in coronavirus infections.
The moves come amid concern about clusters of the virus in areas or facilities and as the death rate continues to rise.
Department of Taoiseach assistant secretary general Elizabeth Canavan announced new measures, saying: “The Irish Prison Service has made every effort to continue to run normal family visits for as long as possible.
"However, in the best interest of the health and safety of prison staff, prisoners and their families, from tomorrow, normal physical visits will no longer be possible.
“Physical visits will be replaced with electronic visits via internet platforms i.e. videolink and video phones.
“Electronic visits will negate the need for visitors to, for example, gather in the visitors’ centres at each prison and are in line with the recommendations announced this week by the Taoiseach.”
Arrangements are being made for the introduction of visits by video link or camera phone early next week.
Prison service officials say the so-called ‘electronic visits’ will negate the need for visitors to gather at prisons.
“This is in line with the recommendations announced this week by the Taoiseach regarding the need to people to desist from gathering in groups of more than four people”, it the service explained.”
All professional visits remain unaffected.
In relation to court orders, Canavan pointed out that the President of the District Court had issued a statement saying domestic violence applications will continue to be given priority as well as information in relation to family law matters such as access, maintenance and guardianship.
Meanwhile, it was also announced that there will be delays in processing student education grants.
“We had hoped that would start earlier this year, however that won’t be possible due to the public health emergency. So SUSI will be processing grants in the normal timeframe this year beginning on April 23rd.”
Ms Canavan also clarified queries around the use of caravan parks, saying people could self isolate there.
”Following the statement around caravan parks at yesterday’s briefing further questions have arisen around the use of caravans by their owners for self-isolating purposes.
"I want to just re-iterate that the aim of the restrictions is to limit tourist activity, not those who stay for long periods and feel the need to self-isolate.”