Ireland to remain in Level 5 lockdown until at least March 5 - Taoiseach

The Taoiseach said that the restrictions were being made in a bid to "crush the virus" and urged people to "stay home".
Ireland to remain in Level 5 lockdown until at least March 5 - Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: "The most important thing we can do is stay home and adhere to hand hygiene and distancing." Picture: Julien Behal.

Ireland will remain in Level 5 lockdown until at least March 5, the Taoiseach has announced.

Micheál Martin made the announcement at Government Buildings today following a meeting of Cabinet.

The continuation of the Covid-19 public health measures will see non-essential retail, schools, pubs and construction sites remain closed for the time being as cases of the virus remain high across the community.

Schools, however, may open on a phased basis starting next month.

Cabinet has also agreed that all those coming from South Africa and Brazil, where Covid variants have been found, will face mandatory quarantine when entering the country for no less than five days.

The requirement for others to isolate for two weeks when coming into the country will no longer be advisory and will be punishable by fines or imprisonment. 

Those arriving without a negative PCR test will be hit with a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in prison, as well as two weeks' mandatory hotel quarantine.

The Taoiseach said that the restrictions were being made in a bid to "crush the virus" and urged people to "stay home".

He said that he did not believe that "pulling up the drawbridge" would succeed in suppressing the virus.

"The most important thing we can do is stay home and adhere to hand hygiene and distancing."

The Taoiseach said that extra gardaí would be deployed at ports and airports.

He said that application of the quarantine for non-EU passengers could be done under current restrictions and would apply to anyone who enters the country via any port of entry on the island.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the decision to extend the lockdown had been made in part to allow the phased reopening of schools, as well as to allow the vaccine rollout ramp up.

He said that the travel measures will take time to allow hotels to be requisitioned, staff to be trained and negotiations to be had with the EU, UK and Northern Executive.

Mr Varadkar said that international travel will be a small percentage of cases for now, but would become an issue in March or April when cases are lower.

Leo Varadkar said that application of the quarantine for non-EU passengers could be done under current restrictions and would apply to anyone who enters the country via any port of entry on the island.

Leo Varadkar said that application of the quarantine for non-EU passengers could be done under current restrictions and would apply to anyone who enters the country via any port of entry on the island.

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that people were "making huge sacrifices" and wanted to see that these were mirrored in government policy.

Several ministers at Cabinet made clear they would like the restrictions regime to have gone further and have expressed concern about the length of time it will take to bring the quarantine system online.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, several Government sources said ministers Simon Harris, Catherine Martin and chief whip Jack Chambers made it clear they felt the proposed changes do not go far enough.

It is clear that primary legislation will be needed to give effect to plans to introduce a mandatory quarantine for up to 14 days for those travelling in from Brazil and South Africa.

The dissenting ministers reportedly made the point that the new variant strains of the virus are not simply limited to the countries they are named after so questioned the likely effectiveness of the measure.

There is also concern that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has been charged with introducing the quarantine system at a time when he is already under pressure over the delays in the vaccine roll-out.

Another source said that as of now, no hotels have yet been taken over and combined with the need for legislation, the new quarantine system is several weeks away from coming on stream.

There was a sense, according to some in government, that the Cabinet is being dragged along by public opinion and “we are making it up as we go along.”

Taoiseach to announce Level 5 lockdown until March 5 and strict new travel rules

Update 3.30pm: Government Ministers are set to sign off on an extension of current Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions until March 5.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed the move this morning, ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting.

New restrictions on travel are also expected to be introduced this afternoon.

The Taoiseach said this morning that it was likely that “a significant number” of people with Covid-19 would still be in Irish hospitals by the end of February, even with the strict lockdown measures extended.

He said: “That’s the real, clear motivating factor in terms of the measures we’re going to take today, in terms of domestically continuing on the restrictions and seriously restricting travel as well.

"We are saying to people ‘stay at home’ - that will yield the best results, in the most rapid time.” 

International Travel 

The Cabinet is also set to introduce mandatory hotel quarantining for those who enter the country without a Covid-negative PCR test.

Visitors arriving from higher-risk countries like South Africa and Brazil, where newer rapidly-spreading Covid-19 variants have been identified, will also be subject to mandatory quarantining measures.

Covid-19 signs pictured this afternoon at Dublin Airport. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Covid-19 signs pictured this afternoon at Dublin Airport. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Passengers from other countries will also be legally required to restrict their movement. Movement restrictions had previously been advisory for travellers in this category.

Passengers without a negative PCR test result will also be open a €2,500 euro fine or up to six months in prison.

Domestic travel 

Proposals that would see Garda checkpoints established outside the country’s airports in a bid to curb non-essential travel are also expected given the green light this afternoon. 

There will also be the introduction of much stricter sanctions in terms of the five-kilometre rule to stop people flying, as well as increased fines for those travelling for non-essential purposes. 

More garda checkpoints are also set to be rolled out in border areas to stop any unessential travel between Ireland and the North.

Opposition

Opposition parties have said the new measures will likely not go far enough in terms of halting the spread of Covid-19 here. 

Sinn Féin's transport spokesperson, Darren O'Rourke, said the Government's quarantine proposals would fall "well short of what is now required" at present.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.