Coronavirus: Six more counties on brink of level 3 restrictions

Sunday saw the highest single-day figure since May as 396 new Covid-19 cases confirmed, with 36 in Cork
Coronavirus: Six more counties on brink of level 3 restrictions

Level three restrictions, which have seen many bars and restaurants in Dublin closed, may be extended to other parts of the country. Picture: Collins Photos

Six more counties are now on the brink of being increased to level three restrictions as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the country.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said "it is a possibility" that other parts of the country may follow Dublin in being moved up to level three restrictions, which have seen many bars and restaurants close in the capital.

In a stark warning to other parts of the country, Mr Ryan said it is "not just a Dublin issue" as the virus is spreading rapidly in the community in Louth, Waterford, Donegal, Leitrim, Limerick, and Kildare.

The warning comes as the highest single-day figure since May 14 was recorded, with 396 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed on Sunday, which brought the weekend figure to 670.

While Dublin still accounts for the highest number of cases, Cork recorded 36 new cases; there were 19 cases confirmed in Donegal; 12 in Galway; and 11 in both Meath and Kildare.

There are now 82 people confirmed to have Covid-19 in hospital, including 17 patients in intensive care.

Further restrictions would see thousands of people move onto the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), which will be the subject of a review in the upcoming budget.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has suggested that the payment, which is due to expire at the end of March, could be extended for up to a year.

A 2 metre social distancing sign in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
A 2 metre social distancing sign in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Picture: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Up until last week, the top rate of the PUP for those laid off due to the Covid-19 crisis was €350 a week, however the rates have now been changed to €300, €250, and €203, depending on how much a person earned previously.

However, senior Government sources dismissed the possibility of restoring the payment to €350 in areas such as Dublin where restrictions are moved up levels, as social welfare payments are not based on geography.

It is expected that sectoral supports for those working in arts and entertainment will be unveiled in October's budget, while a package for taxi drivers is also under consideration.

"We have to recalibrate and the budget gives us an opportunity to look again at issues like the pandemic unemployment payment," said Mr Martin. 

We did change that already now to make it available to new entrants. That was going to be shut off in terms of new entrants; we've changed that.

Mr Martin said the Government would be looking at a nine to 12-month time-frame, which he said will be challenging for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.

As so-called wet pubs open their doors from today, pubs and restaurants across the capital are now banned from serving indoors and  Dubliners have been asked not to leave the county under level-three measures.

With cases rising on a daily basis, Minister Simon Harris said there is now a "very very narrow window" to bring Covid-19 under control and people must take swift, decisive, and very difficult actions.

"We, the Irish people, have a choice really because we are at a crossroads. This could go one of either two ways and we have to now make sure we do not go back to where we were in March or April," he said.

Responding to Opposition criticism on the testing and tracing system, Mr Harris told RTÉ's The Week in Politics that Ireland is testing more people than most other European countries but said the country will be in a "very, very bad place" if we reach the 100,000 weekly testing capacity.

Urging people to restrict their social contacts, Eamon Ryan added: "It's not just Dublin at the moment which is an issue; there are other counties where there actually is the same sort of characteristics where you have got community levels rising in Louth, in Waterford, in Donegal, in Leitrim, in Limerick, still in Kildare — even though there was a very successful stopping of the disease in the tracks there — we still have to be careful across the country.

"It's not easy; no one wants to be doing it," he said, "but that systematic approach which has been put in place now will help and is key to managing this whole thing."

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