There is hope, insists Taoiseach as country prepares for move to level 5

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced that the entire country will move to level 5 restrictions for a period of six weeks.
There is hope, insists Taoiseach as country prepares for move to level 5

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (centre) at Government Buildings in Dublin, speaking during a press conference, with Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport Eamon Ryan and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar. Picture: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced that the entire country will move to level 5 restrictions for a period of six weeks.

Speaking at Government buildings tonight, Mr Martin announced:

  • Retail: Only essential retail will be open.
  • Schools and creches: To remain open.
  • Household visits: The ban on household visits will continue. No visitors will be allowed to any other home.
  • Work: Work from home unless not possible or working in health, retail and social services 
  • PUP: Restored to €350 for those previously on more than €400. EWSS increased to have five bands up to a max of €350 per employee per week 
  • Sports: Elite sport to go ahead - Intercounty GAA, League of Ireland, Horseracing. Children can train in pods of 15 
  • Travel: No travel beyond 5km from home unless for essential, with fines for those who breach the restrictions 
  • Bubbles: Those living alone, parenting alone or vulnerable can have close contact with one other nominated household.
  • Weddings and Funerals: Weddings can have 25 guests, funerals just 10 mourners.
  • Bars and restaurants: Takeaway service only - wet pubs closed.
  • Religious services: Services to be held online.
  • Salons, gyms, museums and galleries: All closed.
  • Construction and manufacturing: Remain open as deemed essential.

'Even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Irish people they will have to live with Covid-19 restrictions until a vaccine becomes available, as the country moved to level 5 until December 1.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the nation about the new Level 5 restrictions. Picture: Julien Behal
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the nation about the new Level 5 restrictions. Picture: Julien Behal

The grave message issued by Mr Martin, although expected, was tempered by his insistence that the population can prevail by "digging deep" within.

"We work to suppress the virus when it is growing and we work to reopen as much of our society and economy as possible when it is safe to do so. Until we have a safe vaccine, we must continue in that pattern," Mr Martin said.

This is the reality, he said, in the rest of the world, acknowledging Ireland's restrictions had been draconian in comparison with other countries.

"Where are we now in that cycle? In the effort to suppress the virus, we have introduced what is probably Europe's strictest regime.

"As a result of this, we can see some evidence that these restrictions have been effective in slowing the growth and spread of the virus.

"However, as these figures show, these restrictions on their own have not been enough to significantly reduce the levels of infection," Mr Martin said.

Further action is now required, he insisted, as a "potentially grave situation" lay ahead otherwise.

A six-week Level 5 period was necessary, he said.

Locking down the entire island by cutting off access was not an option, he said, just as so-called "herd immunity" was also non-negotiable.

Children and their education must continue however, according to Mr Martin.

"We cannot, or will not, allow our children and young people's futures to be another victim of this disease.

"They need their education. The fact that we have been able to open our schools and keep them open has been due to the extraordinary efforts of our administrators, principals, teachers, special needs assistants, parents, childcare providers, cleaners, caretakers and entire school communities," he said.

They too are on the frontline of this crisis and they deserve the gratitude of the entire nation.

Mental health supports would now increase, along with support payments for workers.

Mr Martin attempted to combat the gravity of his message with an upbeat conclusion, urging the population to rise to the challenge once more as Christmas approached.

"Even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light...If each of us does what is asked of us for a period of just six weeks, we will suppress this virus and emerge from these restrictions on December 1."

Full details of the new restrictions can be found at gov.ie.

No new deaths reported as 1,031 new cases confirmed with 232 in Cork 

 A quiet afternoon in Cork City Centre. Retail faces more challenges as further restrictions are considered. Picture: Dan Linehan
A quiet afternoon in Cork City Centre. Retail faces more challenges as further restrictions are considered. Picture: Dan Linehan

There have been no new Covid-related deaths reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) today.

The HPSC has been notified of 1,031 new confirmed cases of Covid-19.

There is now a total of 50,993 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Republic and the death toll stands at 1,852.

Of the cases today, 235 were in Dublin, 232 in Cork, 60 in Galway, 47 in Limerick, 47 in Kerry and the remaining 410 cases spread across 21 counties.

As of 2pm today, there were 298 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 34 are in ICU.

There have been 20 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan has reiterated the importance of self-isolating for anyone with symptoms, waiting on a test result or who has been deemed a close contact.

“If you have symptoms of Covid-19, if you are waiting for a test result or if you are a confirmed case, you must self-isolate for 10 days from when you first develop symptoms.

"Self-isolation means staying in your room, away from other members of your household.

“If you live in a house with a confirmed case do not go to work or school. You must stay at home and restrict your movements for 14 days.”

Ireland under level 5 until December 

The announcement of the move is expected later this evening by Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture: Julien Behal
The announcement of the move is expected later this evening by Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture: Julien Behal

The decision to move to the highest level of restrictions under the Government's Living with Covid-19 plan comes after Nphet recommended on two previous occasions to increase restrictions.

Level 5 would see the country return to a state of lockdown similar to that seen in March and is seen as a chance to ensure that there are no major restrictions over Christmas.

The six-week lockdown will be reviewed after four weeks to assess whether it can be accelerated or if further restrictions are required.

The announcement will be made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin later this evening after Cabinet signs off on the move officially.

The current proposal is to move to a mix of level 4 and level 5 on a county by county basis and the cabinet are currently discussing how to exit the restrictions.

Under level 5, travel would only be permitted within 5km of a person's home, only essential retail would remain open and public transport would only be for essential workers.

Graduated fines will be introduced within the coming weeks for those in breach of the guidelines and leaving a 5km radius from one's home for non-essential purposes will be a penal offence.

Bars, cafes and restaurants would be required to operate on a takeaway basis only.

Cabinet has agreed that professional sports can continue in Level 5, and social bubbles for the vulnerable and elderly will be allowed.

Sources say Minister Catherine Martin among others has been pushing heavily for the idea of a "support bubble".

Based on the UK idea, a "bubble" is a group of people that a person can have close contact with, this is only for single adults living alone, single parents with children under 18 or the elderly can have close contact with one other set of people.

It is recommended support "bubbles" are local to avoid necessary travel.

Sports training for children can continue in pods, like in schools, as normal and disability care and addiction services will stay open.

For counties under level 5, gyms and adult amateur sports training will be stopped.

Individual exercise will remain allowed within 5km of your home.

No outdoor gatherings will be allowed and all professional sport will be played behind closed doors.

A new mental health package is to be introduced in order to counteract the psychological effects of a second country-wide lockdown.

It's understood a number of cabinet members had flagged the effects on mental health when discussing the new restrictions.

Construction and manufacturing will be allowed to continue.

PUP rate rises to €350 for those earning €400 per week

Existing claimants who were previously on over €400 per week, will automatically be adjusted to the new rate.
Existing claimants who were previously on over €400 per week, will automatically be adjusted to the new rate.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will have another band added to it to allow those who were on €400 per week previously but lose their employment due to this lockdown to earn €350.

The bands will now be €350, €300, €250, €203 based on prior earnings.

A joint memo brought to Cabinet this evening by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys proposes the introduction of the new rate.

Existing claimants who were previously on over €400 per week, will automatically be adjusted to the new rate.

The number of people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has increased by more than 15,000 in the last week.

There are now 244,153 people receiving the PUP payment, an increase of 15,295 week-on-week.

The figures have increased following last week's decision to move the border counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan to level four of the Government's pandemic roadmap.

On Monday, the Department of Social Protection issued payments valued at €65.5 million, up from €61.4 million last week.

Evictions

It's understood over 300 people have been evicted since the pandemic began. Picture: File photo
It's understood over 300 people have been evicted since the pandemic began. Picture: File photo

Another moratorium on evictions is being considered by the Cabinet in wake of potential new restrictions.

A move to Level 5 could see the public restricted to within 5km from their homes, similar to the restrictions in March and April, and it is under these circumstances that the eviction ban is being considered.  

It is understood that cabinet has discussed the issue in the context of tenants not being able to attend letting agencies or other supports if they are evicted if they are required to stay within 5km or subject to other travel restrictions.

It's understood over 300 people have been evicted since the pandemic began.

A government spokesperson said: "A moratorium on eviction is being considered in the context of restrictions on people's movement.

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