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Modified Level 4 restrictions possible with Cabinet to meet on Monday

Government leaders met today to discuss the recommendation to move to Level 5.

Image: Julien Behal Photography/RollingNews.ie

Updated Oct 17th 2020, 9:27 PM

RESTRICTIONS THAT SIT on a middle ground between Level 4 and Level 5 are a probable scenario for the coming weeks following public health advice recommending that Ireland moves to Level 5 restrictions.

Coalition leaders met today to discuss how to respond to advice to move to Level 5, but are yet to announce an outcome of their meeting.

It is understood that they are leaning towards imposing Level 4 restrictions with some modifications to effectively bring limitations between Level 4 and Level 5.

Any final decision must be made by the full Cabinet, which is due to meet next on Monday.

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

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

A statement from the Government Press Office said that 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.

It is understood there has been some hesitance in government to immediately move to Level 5, with suggestions to adopt Level 4 restrictions first and move to Level 5 if necessary.

Some feel that Level 4 restrictions should be tried before any move is made to Level 5, and that the difference between the two levels is a technical one.

Fine Gael ministers are due to meet tomorrow following today’s discussions.

Holohan and Reid, along with Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn and Professor Philip Nolan, were called to make a presentation to the ministers meeting today before they discussed the recommendation to move to Level 5.

Before presenting to the ministers, Holohan and Glynn met privately with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

The NPHET team left Government Buildings shortly after 6pm this evening. Holohan and Glynn arrived earlier in the day around 2pm.

Earlier this week, NPHET recommended that the government moves Ireland into Level 5 for the second time in two weeks.

If NPHET’s advice is followed, the Level 5 restrictions would last for a six week period.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the government would give “active consideration” to NPHET’s recommendation to move to Level 5.

Martin, speaking from Brussels, said that “the situation is very serious and we will need further action in relation to this”.

“Obviously this is very serious advice that we’ve received. It has to be considered properly. And people have to be given clear clarity around it and that’s why we are going to meet tomorrow in the first instance,” Martin said.

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

There were an additional eight deaths reported today – 5 of which occurred in October, 2 in September, and 1 in June.

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

Speaking to Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ One this morning, Professor of Biochemistry at Trinity, Luke O’Neill, said that the government has “the most difficult decision so far coming up this weekend”.

O’Neill said that “more restrictions” would be likely and the government will “have to do something to get the numbers down”.

However, he said that Level 5 restrictions posed challenges, and particularly that the 5km restriction on exercise around one’s home was a “tricky one”.

Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan have already moved to Level 4 restrictions due to a high rate of cases in the three counties.

Around the country, tighter restrictions have been imposed on household visits which require that no visits be made to other homes, except for essential reasons like childcare.

What would Level 5 look like?

Under Level 5 restrictions, most social activities would be stopped or significantly limited.

In addition to no visitors being allowed to homes or gardens, no social or family gatherings would be allowed to take place in other environments.

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Organised indoor and outdoor gatherings, such as cultural events, would not be permitted, and nor would any group sport training or matches.

Religious services would be held online, but places of worship can remain open for individual prayer.

Up to 10 mourners would be allowed at a funeral, and up to six guests at a wedding.

Bars, cafés, restaurants and pubs will remain limited to take away or delivery services only.

Only essential retail would be allowed to open, with services such as hairdressers and barbers required to close.

The existing framework does not lay out how schools, creches and colleges would be affected by Level 5 restrictions. Instead, it stipulates that recommendations would be “based on situation and evidence at time”.

With reporting by Cónal Thomas and Christina Finn

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