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'No other choice than to act': Donegal to be placed under Level 3 restrictions after spike in Covid-19 cases

Government ministers held an incorporeal meeting this evening to discuss the measure.

The Taoiseach announced the measures this evening.
The Taoiseach announced the measures this evening.
Image: Julien Behal Photography

Updated Sep 24th 2020, 6:40 PM

THE CABINET HAS decided to place Donegal under Level 3 of restrictions, amid a spike in cases in the county.

The decision was made at an incorporeal meeting of ministers as they considered the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). 

According to the data published earlier today from Health Protection and Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Donegal’s 14-day Covid-19 incidence rate of 122.5 per 100,000 population is second only to Dublin. With tonight’s latest figures, it now has eclipsed Dublin. 

Speaking this evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that government had “no choice other than to act, and act decisively”. 

The restrictions will kick in from midnight tomorrow night and will last for three weeks. 

“We will not hesistate to take whatever decisions are necessary to protect lives and public health,” Martin said. “The government has decided that all of Co Donegal must now join Dublin.”

The Taoiseach also announced additional supports for the county, with a 30% top-up to the restart plus grant to help those affected during the three-week period. 

He said that while not inevitable, it could be the case that other areas could be put under stricter restrictions in the future as the virus continues to spread across the country.

Given Donegal’s proximity to Northern Ireland, the Taoiseach said he’d discussed developments with Stormont’s first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill. He also said that Dr Ronan Glynn was in contact with his counterpart in Northern Ireland and that discussions would be ongoing to ensure the most effective co-operation as the fight against Covid-19 goes on. 

Martin added that Covid levels in Louth, Waterford, Wicklow, Kildare, Cork and Galway are being watched closely. 

Outbreaks are particularly bad in the Lifford and Stranorlar areas, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said at a press conference this evening. In the case of Stranorlar, it has 14-day incidence rate of 336 per 100,000 population – the highest in the country. 

“We’re all eager for normal life to return,” he said. “But this is the opportunity the virus has been waiting on… do not underestimate the value of your individual actions. Please stick with this.

I do not want to be back here next week having to make recommendations for other counties. There is an opportunity now for people to take action to stop that from happening.

Under Level 3, a range of new restrictions will apply in the county. All of the restrictions that apply in Dublin now apply in Donegal – with one exception. 

People in Donegal would be told to stay in the county and only leave it for essential purposes, only have visitors from one other household in your home or garden and to work from home unless absolutely necessary.

Indoor dining in pubs and restaurants would not be allowed, with only outdoor dining permitted to a maximum of 15 people. Unlike Dublin, wet pubs can remain open but with the same limit of a maximum of 15 people outdoors only. 

This weekend, weddings in Donegal can proceed as originally planned up to a limit of 50 guests. However, from Monday weddings can have a maximum of 25 guests. 

The government unveiled its new five-level system last week and Dublin was moved from Level 2 to Level 3 on Saturday. 

It is hoped that increasing restrictions will stabilise the growth rate of Covid-19 in an area and eventually see them reduce to an extent that restrictions can be loosened again.

Donegal-based GP Denis McCauley told TheJournal.ie earlier today that he and colleagues could see Covid-19 “bubbling through the actual community” in recent weeks.

“These aren’t discrete outbreaks,” he said. “It is bubbling through the community. We have one to two weeks to get this under control in Donegal.”

“I think Donegal is probably where it is now because of the warm weather and because it is summer.”

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He said that people staycationing in Donegal, coupled with “a complacency that has existed or a little while”, might be the cause of the severe outbreak.

Reacting to the announcement, Sinn Féin TDs for Donegal Pearse Doherty and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said it would come as “very difficult news” for the people of the county.

They said: “People have tried very hard in recent months to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been a very challenging time. We now need to dig deep and get back to Level 2 as soon as possible.

“Together we can get ahead of the virus by following public health advice, by limiting our social contacts and staying safe.”

With reporting from Christina Finn, Dominic McGrath

About the author:

Sean Murray

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