Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that Dublin will move to level 3 lockdown restrictions from midnight Friday in a bid to reverse a spike in Covid-19 cases.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Martin confirmed that on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, Dublin city and county will move to Level 3 of the Government’s Framework for Restrictive Measures for a period of three weeks.
He said in our capital, despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place.
“Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis,” he said.
The Taoiseach said this new status will include but not be limited to the following restrictions:
- Visitors to private homes, including gardens, will be permitted from one other household only, and involve up to a maximum of 6 people.
- No organised indoor gatherings should take place, and outdoor gatherings should have a maximum of 15 people.
- Restaurants and cafes, including pubs serving food, will close to indoor dining but can remain open for takeaway and delivery. They can also remain open for outdoor dining for a maximum of 15 people. As already announced, wet bars will remain closed.
- Visits to long term residential care facilities are suspended, with the exception of critical and compassionate circumstances.
- Those living in Dublin are advised to stay within the county, unless they need to travel for work, education and other essential purposes.
- Similarly, people outside of Dublin are advised not to travel into the county except for work, education and other essential purposes.
- Sports training activities can continue, but only for non-contact sports in the outdoors and in pods of up to 15. There is an exception to this for professional and elite athletes, inter county sports and senior club championship.
- Indoor training should be confined to individuals only and no classes should take place.
- No social or family gatherings should take place other than weddings and funerals, but the number of people at both should be restricted to 25 from Monday. Weddings due to take place this weekend may go ahead under level 2 restrictions and people are reminded to follow public health guidelines.
“I understand how frustrated people are – how much we all want to put this pandemic behind us – but we have to remember it is still deadly and have to take action. It is only we as a people, working together and making the sacrifices that are being asked of each one of us that we can slow the new wave of the virus,” Mr Martin said.
In a strong and coherent address, he sought to personalise his comments to show he has listened to concerns and anger raised by many.
The Government has decided today that from midnight tonight, the entire county and city of Dublin will be placed on Level 3 of the Framework for Restrictive Measures. Dublin will remain at Level 3 for a period of 3 weeks, until Friday 9 October.https://t.co/qcchLi6597 pic.twitter.com/HEs3VIhul8— MerrionStreet.ie (@merrionstreet) September 18, 2020
“As well as being Taoiseach, I am also a father, a husband, a brother, a sports fan, someone who likes a pint with my friends. I know how exhausting, how infuriating, how lonely it has been and still is for so many of our people as we try to manage this.
"I know the havoc that the virus is causing for some sections of our economy, and the hardship that it is causing in particular within our hospitality trade and in our arts and culture community. And I know that we must take new action to help them,” he said.
“But I also know this, my first and most important obligation, and that of Government, is to protect you. This virus kills. It kills more old people than young, but it kills young people too. And the ones it doesn’t kill, it leaves many of them sick and disabled for months. At least,” Mr Martin added.
The additional restrictions that are needed for Dublin will make many people angry, but we have received very clear advice that these restrictions will help reduce the spread of the virus and save lives, the Taoiseach said.
“Every decision we make and every measure we introduce, we do so in an effort to protect the most vulnerable, to resume and maintain normal health and social care services and to keep our children in school. We also need to keep as many people as possible working,” he said.
There has been some criticism about the decision to pause indoor dining in restaurants and gastropubs for the next three weeks. People reasonably ask why, he said.
“It is a very fair question. The fact is that while we are seeing a lot of cases spreading in people’s homes, the initial infection is taking place outside the home and in the community.
We need to keep the disease out of people’s homes in the first place. Our decision to act now on indoor dining is not any reflection on business owners who have done everything that was asked of them.
"We are doing this because we want to minimise the number of places where people can congregate and where the disease can spread for the next three weeks,” viewers were told by the Taoiseach.
Along with the new restrictions, the Government will implement extra business supports,” he said.
“We will immediately invest €30 million in a top-up to the Restart Plus grant for Dublin businesses. This will be open to all businesses affected by these measures including those that have already availed of the original grant.
"The Government has also agreed an additional €5 million package to support those affected in the arts, culture, sports and tourism sectors in Dublin,” he added.
It comes as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre were informed of three further deaths due to Covid-19.
There has also been 253 new cases of the virus in Ireland with 116 of them in Dublin.
Business owners in Dublin have said they are “devastated and heartbroken” by the move to level 3 lockdown in Dublin including the closure of restaurants.
Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland has described the government's decision as "devastating".
He said the decision will cause chaos and economic collapse for thousands of small hospitality businesses, including as many as 50,000 job lay-offs.
In a tweet, he said: "Cabinet have signed off on closing all indoor dining in Dublin restaurants and pubs serving food from midnight tonight for three weeks. This will cause chaos and economic collapse for thousands of small hospitality businesses, plus 50,000 job lay offs."
Gina Murphy, owner of Hugo’s restaurant, said the news is “heart-breaking”.
“We are devastated, we followed every guideline, we did everything ask of us. This is just heart-breaking and financially so destructive. It is so hard to keep taking these knocks. We are on our knees already,” she said.
Retail Excellence Ireland said businesses cannot be given less than 24 hours to react to potential closure notice from Government.
The uncertainty around this announcement will result in:
- Cafes and coffee shops moving to a takeaway service only with a big hit to turnover;
- A huge amount of food bought in for the weekend, will go to waste as a result of the late notice and uncertainty caused by this announcement;
- Staff members will be moved back to the PUP payment and jobs will be threatened in the long run.
Retail Excellence has called on Revenue to accelerate the Employment Wage Subsidy Payments to back to businesses within days rather than the current situation where they could be waiting up to six weeks.
At the request of the Government, social and club activities on campus will be suspended until further notice.
A spokesperson for the Irish Universities Association (IUA) said: "The universities will ensure that all necessary health protection measures are in place and that there will be clear communication to students and staff in this regard.