More limits on public activity amid social distancing letdown

More limits on public activity amid social distancing letdown
Antoinette Conway greets her one-year-old granddaughter, Ella May Byrne, from a safe distance on Mother’s Day. Picture: Aishling Conway

Additional reporting by Aoife Moore

“Significant” additional restrictions on public gatherings and business closures across the country will be announced today, at the same time that Britain is placed on a draconian lockdown for at least three weeks.

As two further deaths related to Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland, the Cabinet here is expected to introduce further restrictions to public gatherings in a bid to “harmonise” as much as possible with the North and Britain.

The audacious bid by British prime minister Boris Johnson to contain the coronavirus represents the greatest restriction of public movement in Britain since the Second World War.

Here, ministers will today consider recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), which is expected to extend the shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses beyond March 29.

The Government said it has asked NPHET to consider at its weekly meeting tomorrow its latest advice regarding public interactions and some other matters.

“Any updated advice from NPHET will be considered when the Cabinet meets tomorrow. Cabinet will also consider new legislation related to the Covid emergency,” the spokesman said.

Asked if Ireland will follow Mr Johnson’s lead, the spokesman said it “would follow the medical advice”.

“To date, public compliance with the physical distance measures has generally been good, but in some cases there clearly is a need to reinforce the message of maintaining an adequate distance, especially for public places,” said a Government spokesperson.

The death yesterday of two men in the east of the country who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 brings to six the number of fatalities in Ireland.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre confirmed there were 219 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the highest daily increase yet, bringing to 1,125 the number of confirmed cases in the Republic.

The Government’s chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, said that Ireland is still in the “early stages of the crisis” and that “more deaths are likely”.

He said he would not release the ages of the men who died, as the number of deaths is still small, but said that, as those numbers increase, the ages will be released.

Dr Holohan, responding to reports of large public gatherings at beaches and parks over the weekend, said this is not a virus of the elderly, and called on all people to exercise personal responsibility.

Dr Holohan highlighted an issue of some publicans continuing to open for business despite the call to shut down until March 29. 

He said that, in such cases, under new powers signed into law, the minister can ask the gardaí to enforce against such premises.

Major food outlets and banks have moved to close their doors because of the impact of the crisis.

Bank of Ireland will temporarily close 101 branches from today, while 161 will remain open. 

The bank said it had seen a reduction in footfall in its branches, while it was seeing an increase in customers needing a different range of supports.

Simon Coveney has been tested for Covid-19, but has been assured he has not contracted the virus, he told the Irish Examiner.

The Tánaiste was tested after being contacted by the HSE in recent days to alert him that he had been in direct contact with someone who had tested positive.

“Like thousands of people across the country, I was contacted in recent days by a member of the HSE contact tracing team to say I had been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19,” Mr Coveney told the Irish Examiner.

The World Health Organization has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating” as the number of confirmed cases passes the 300,000 mark.

The agency said it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.

More limits on public activity amid social distancing letdown

New measures

  • The HSE says 60,000 people have registered for the Be On Call for Ireland recruitment drive.

  • The mayors of Dublin, Cork, and Galway are calling for a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19.

  • The European Centre for Disease Control says there is no evidence bodies can transmit the virus.

  • Diageo, the maker of Guinness, has pledged 8m bottles of hand sanitiser to help the fight — including 500,000 litres for Irish and UK health systems.

  • University College Cork is to provide a course to help nurses address the needs of patients presenting with Covid-19. It is an online accelerated programme developed in partnership with UCD and the HSE.

  • Supermac’s is the latest fast-food chain to close due to the virus. It joins the likes of McDonald’s and Subway.

  • Aer Lingus Regional is to operate a significantly reduced schedule this week and temporarily suspend all international flight operations from Saturday until further notice.

  • Ireland football captain Seamus Coleman has donated €20,000 to Covid-19 health workers’ food charity Feed the Heroes.

  • Debenhams closes its stores in Ireland.

  • Bank of Ireland announces the temporary closure of 101 branches.

  • British prime minister Boris Johnson has placed the UK on lockdown to tackle the growing crisis. Mr Johnson said police would issue fines for anyone who ignores new measures, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

      Useful information
    • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
    • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
    • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
    • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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