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new restrictions

Government to take 'decisive action' tomorrow, says Harris

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said that any new restrictions will be implemented nationwide.

MINISTER FOR HIGHER Education Simon Harris has said that the government will take “decisive” action tomorrow following meetings between the coalition leaders and several ministers yesterday to discuss how to respond to public health advice to move Ireland to Level 5 restrictions.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week in Politics, Harris said that “I want people to know that the government will act tomorrow. The action will be decisive.”

Harris said that the action taken will be implemented nationwide.

“It’s clear now that the virus is at such a level within all our communities that the county-by-county approach is not sufficient,” he said.

Harris said that more restrictions will need to be brought in tomorrow, and that Level 3 “has not worked in terms of getting the virus to where it needs to get to”.

Cabinet is due to meet tomorrow to make a decision on the imposition of new restrictions.

Yesterday, the three coalition party leaders, along with the Ministers for Health, Finance, and Public Expenditure, met to discuss whether Ireland should adopt Level 5 restrictions following a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Although an official decision will only be made by the full Cabinet, which is yet to meet, it is understood that there is an inclination to impose Level 4 restrictions with some modifications to effectively bring limitations between Level 4 and Level 5.

The politicians at yesterday’s meeting heard from senior members of the NPHET team on the current Covid-19 situation in Ireland that led them to the recommendation.

Harris said that the trajectory of the virus is what is really concerning our health officials”.

“I spoke to the Tánaiste, and they heard a wide range of presentations from NPHET and from Paul Reid, the head of the HSE, but also presentations on what happened during the last lockdown and some worrying statistics on domestic violence reports being up by a third,” Harris said.

“This is different to March and April. We’re asking people to take more restrictions for a second time, and we’re having to balance that with our honest view as to what people can sustain and bear. But we will act tomorrow.”

There were a further 1,276 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland yesterday, bringing the total number of cases to 48,678.

The national 14-day incidence rate now stands at 231.6 per 100,000.

A statement from the Government Press Office said that at yesterday’s meetings, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan gave “an analysis of the virus in each region of the country”, and Chief Executive of the HSE Paul Reid gave “an assessment of current hospital response capacity, and an update on the test and trace system”.

“Presentations were also given on the economic, employment and society wide implications of moving to more severe restrictions. Other significant issues were also discussed such as mental health and domestic violence,” the statement said. 

Fundamental to the discussions was the overarching aim of protecting lives and livelihoods.”

“The Health team briefed Ministers that children were safer in schools, transmission rates are low, and that the continued opening of schools is very important to the development and wellbeing of children and young people,” the statement said.

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