Dublin needs 'miracle' to escape increased Covid restrictions, ministers say

'No chance' of restrictions being eased if case numbers do not begin to fall dramatically
Dublin needs 'miracle' to escape increased Covid restrictions, ministers say

A quiet Stephen's Green Square as the level-three restrictions take hold on Dublin City. Picture: Gareth Chaney

Dublin requires "a miracle" to emerge from increased Covid-19 restrictions next month, ministers have said, as concern around eight other counties increases.

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting today, ministers said there is "no chance" of restrictions being eased if case numbers do not begin to fall dramatically.

They were speaking as 334 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, 174 of which were in Dublin. 

Restrictions in the capital were announced on Friday and ministers have cautioned that their effect may not be evident until after this weekend.

“It is looking very doubtful Dublin will emerge. It would take a miracle when you look where the numbers are and, more alarmingly, where they are going,” said one senior minister.

"At this point, it's hard to see it happening," one source said about the easing of restrictions in Dublin. 

"You could need a week or two longer to really get the number down,” said another.

Sources say there is increasing worry about whether the public is continuing to adhere to guidance, particularly among people aged 18-54. "It's not just the youngest of people at this point, people of all ages below the most vulnerable are weary."

Government sources also say they are worried by the rise in figures in Cork, which has thus far managed to avoid a second wave. Shutting down the two largest cities at once would be "a dire situation", they say.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the focus of the Government is to try and convince people, and younger people in particular, to stick to the guidelines, but admitted the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

“What we need to focus on at the moment is to encourage people to adhere to the guidelines that are currently there. Yes, we have seen figures increase and there have been a number of counties that have been particularly highlighted,” she told the Irish Examiner.

But until we get a recommendation from NPHET, until we are told they are at a point we need to move to a different level, then obviously we can’t make a decision. 

"What we need to do is encourage people across the country, and in Dublin as well, to adhere to the current guidelines so hopefully that will mean no county has to move backwards perhaps to various different level."

Ms McEntee said it is very hard to tell what will happen until NPHET meets again.

“Unless people adhere to the guidelines, then the numbers will continue to go in a direction we don’t want them to. We don’t want to get to that point,” she said.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath voiced concern, as "clearly the numbers are clearly going in the wrong direction". 

Mr McGrath said if there were "flagrant breaches" of regulations, the Government would consider increasing the powers of gardaí. He said the law must be enforced in order to protect the vulnerable.

"If that is required, that is what we will do. We will examine what more might need to be done to make sure there are adequate powers and resources for gardaí to protect communities,” he said.

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