Level 5 lockdown to remain until March 5 with stricter Covid rules for international travel 

New restrictions on travel are also to be announced by government this week. 
Level 5 lockdown to remain until March 5 with stricter Covid rules for international travel 

The current set of restrictions are due to expire this week. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 meeting has ended, with Ministers set to recommend an extension to the Level 5 lockdown until March 5.

Proposals for new travel restrictions will also be brought to tomorrow's full meeting of Cabinet, but it is understood that no decision has been made on the Leaving Cert or a return to education, due next week.

Construction sites, apart from those currently allowed to operate, will remain closed until March 5. 

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid agreed that all those coming from South Africa and Brazil where Covid variants have been found will face mandatory quarantine when entering the country.

One source said this would effectively amount to a travel ban for particular countries.

However, it is understood that this may take some time to implement as arrangements will have to be made with hotels.

"It won't be immediate because it has to be set up and that will be led by the Department of Health," said a senior Government source.

Passengers entering from other regions will be expected to self-isolate and this will now be "legally binding and penal" and will no longer be advisory as has been the case.

It is understood that Ministers also discussed the possibility of testing people on arrival at airports as well as requiring a PCR test prior to travelling.

However, it is understood that many issues still have to be hammered out.

"Some things will be worked on over the course of the evening and into the morning ahead of Cabinet," one senior Government source said.

The current set of restrictions are due to expire this week.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has already indicated that most classes may not return to school for many weeks as pupils will only be allowed back on a phased basis, starting with those with special educational needs and those due to take the Leaving Certificate.

The number of new measures to curb the spread of the virus that will go to Cabinet tomorrow, include:

  • Garda checkpoints will be set up outside airports and ports to stop non-essential travel, with increased fines for those leaving for non-essential purposes - including an increased fine over the €100 currently in place. It is understood that this could be increased to €250. Checkpoints will also check for returning holidaymakers.
  • Mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals from South Africa and Brazil for at least five and up to 14 days at a state-designated hotel if they test positive on day five. All mandatory quarantine will be at the traveller's expense.
  • The introduction of much stricter sanctions for breach of the five-kilometre rule to stop people flying. This will include fines for those who try to go abroad for non-essential reasons.
  • Mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days as well as a fine of up to €2,500 or up to six months in prison for those arriving into the country who don't have a negative PCR test to address a loophole that allowed authorities punish people, but not to stop them entering the state.
  • A temporary suspension on all visa-free short-term travel for those coming from South Africa and South America.
  • Antigen testing at motorway services areas close to Dublin Port and Rosslare for hauliers travelling to France from Thursday.
  • Strengthening the passenger locator form with more questions asked and more follow-ups after a person arrives in the country, as well as new fines for breaches of the form.

    Green Party leader Eamon Ryan today said that gardaí would be given new powers though other government sources have said that they do not believe this will be necessary.

“Because of the risk of this new variant we're going to take a much tougher, much stricter, much more wary approach, while still allowing essential people to come in,” Mr Ryan said.

The Transport Minister said: “There isn't a silver bullet here, but what there are is a whole series of layers."

Mr Ryan said the recent introduction requiring all passengers to have a negative PCR test before arriving in Ireland "dramatically" cut the number of people flying straightaway.

"Now when we go another layer on top of that and have someone outside the airports saying 'I'm sorry, you cannot fly,' that will do it again."

He said the same five-kilometer rules will apply both at Dublin Airport and along the border with Northern Ireland, meaning people will be sanctioned and fined if they are found outside their five kilometre radius.

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