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Irish government expected to announce restrictions for public parks and open spaces

The National Public Health Emergency Team meets this morning to decide the latest advice to the public.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS expected to introduce further measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, when the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) meets early this morning. 

The Government has asked the expert team to consider at its weekly meeting its latest advice regarding public interactions and some other matters, according to a spokesperson.

Any updated advice from NPHET is being considered by the Cabinet, which has been meeting since 10am today. 

While ministers are of the view that to date good progress has been made with regard to contact tracing, and that public compliance with the physical distance measures has generally been good, it was acknowledged yesterday that in some cases “there clearly is a need to reinforce the message of maintaining an adequate distance, especially for public places”, said the spokesperson.

Cabinet will also consider new legislation related to the Covid-19 emergency, including changes to social welfare payments. The Dáil is due back on Thursday to debate and pass emergency coronavirus relating to the financial package, public health measures, and new rental laws. 

It is understood that measures due to be announced this morning will relate to gatherings in public and open spaces. This follows on from crowded scenes at Lahinch beach, Glendalough and Howth over the weekend.

It is believed there will be stricter implementation of physical distancing in parks and on beaches. 

‘Non-essential’

Restrictions that are also expected to considered include measures relating to non-essential travel. It is expected further measures will result in business closures, with workers deemed “non-essential” expected not to be in work tomorrow. 

However it is understood that the government is not moving to a lockdown or telling people not to leave their homes. 

At a meeting of party leaders yesterday, it is understood that concerns were raised about what “non-essential” business can be defined as, with the Taoiseach highlighting that businesses such as mechanics could be deemed as essential as they would be vital in ensuring that health workers personal transport is maintained. 

Other issues relating to manufacturers – particularly those that might provide packaging or wooden pallets for industry such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and deeming them as essential workers were also raised. 

This follows an extraordinary announcement from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night, in which the British people were asked to stay at home, not to meet family and friends, and to limit their exercise to one a day to attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. These measures will be in place in Northern Ireland.

Cabinet are also set to discuss changes to the pandemic payment. The first payment is due to be paid to applicants today, however Social Protection Minster Regina Doherty acknowledged over the weekend that the payment is not enough and will be modified.

Countries such as the UK has pledged to pay up to 80% of wages for those that have been put out of work due to the virus outbreak. It is believed government is considering paying up to 60%-70% of the average wage.

Consideration will also be given to the overall cost of the measures being rolled out, with a huge deficit in Ireland’s finances expected by the end of this year.

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