Q&A: What does the latest Covid announcement mean for me?

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
Q&A: What does the latest Covid announcement mean for me?

There will also be more gardaí at ports and airports and gardaí will be able to turn people coming from Northern Ireland back under new laws. Picture: Denis Minihane.

WHAT CHANGES FROM TODAY?

Not much for those residing in Ireland, the state will remain in level 5 lockdown until at least March 5.

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.

WHAT ABOUT SCHOOLS?

Schools will remain shut for now, however, may open on a phased basis starting next month.

CAN PEOPLE STILL TRAVEL TO IRELAND?

Yes, however, all visa-free short-term travel from South Africa and all of South America is suspended until at least March 5.

All those coming from those locations where new Covid variants have been found will face mandatory quarantine when entering the country for no less than five days.

Anyone entering the State from overseas will be subject to mandatory quarantine, in one form or another – sometimes at hotels, but more likely at home.

This requirement will no longer be advisory and will now be punishable by fines or imprisonment.

Gardaí will be tasked with policing whether people comply with the quarantine rules.

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.

Anyone entering the State from overseas will be subject to mandatory quarantine, in one form or another – sometimes at hotels, but more likely at home. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Anyone entering the State from overseas will be subject to mandatory quarantine, in one form or another – sometimes at hotels, but more likely at home. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

There will also be more gardaí at ports and airports and gardaí will be able to turn people coming from Northern Ireland back under new laws, but not those living in the Republic. The current €100 fine for breaching travel restrictions is likely to be increased to about €500 for severe breaches of travel restrictions.

CAN I STILL TRAVEL WITHIN THE ISLAND?

Unless you are leaving home for an essential purpose, you do not have a reason to travel.

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

IS THIS PLAN GOING TO WORK?

Much of what the Government announced will need primary legislation and new powers to be brought in to make the requirements work.

Designating hotels as well as drafting legislation could take a number of weeks, while planes continue to arrive in Ireland from all over the world.

Opposition and some within the Cabinet have said that they do not feel the plan goes far enough. New variants are so prevalent in a number of countries that mandatory quarantine for just two areas will not be sufficient to stop the spread of those new variants in the state.

Meanwhile, travellers from any country can still enter the Republic from the north of Ireland through ports and airports in Belfast, Derry or Larne, for example, without having to inform the State or quarantine. Despite many requests from the Northern Ireland Executive, the Government has not shared passenger locator forms for those arriving in the state who plan to travel north, citing GDPR issues.

WHAT ABOUT VACCINES?

The HSE has endeavoured to vaccinate every resident in a nursing home in the state, but this has not happened due to various Covid-19 outbreaks in residential facilities. Health minister Stephen Donnelly did not have the figures of how many residents had not received a vaccine when asked.

This week, the HSE plans to give 6,551 vaccines to staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

About 47,000 people will get their second vaccination dose this week. This will be both frontline healthcare workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

If the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is authorised by the European Medicines Agency this week, older people will be vaccinated in the order, beginning at 85 and older, and descending to 80-84, 75-79 and 70-74.

The Government has conceded that the State does not have as many vaccines as they want.

The delivery to Ireland of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be "at the lower end" of its expectations for February and "considerably lower" than originally stated by the company for March, Mr Donnelly said.

Vaccination of over-70s against Covid-19 will start in February despite supply difficulties.

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