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Taoiseach tells everyone in Ireland to stay at home for two weeks from midnight tonight, with only specific listed exemptions

A further 302 cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland were confirmed this evening.

Image: Sam Boal

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has announced further restrictions from midnight tonight for a two-week period until Easter Sunday, 12 April. 

Everybody in Ireland has been told to stay at home for two weeks, except essential workers travelling to work and other exceptions.

Exemptions include: 

  • To shop for food or household goods or collect a meal. 
  • For vital family healthcare reasons  - social family visits are prohibited.
  • To take physical exercise individually or with children from the family.

People who do leave their homes for exercise will be required to stay within a 2km radius.

Shielding or cocooning will also be introduced for all of those over 70 years of age and specific categories of people who are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. 

All visits to hospitals, residential healthcare settings, or residential settings and prisons are to cease with specific exceptions, on compassionate grounds.

All public transport and passenger travel will be restricted only to essential workers, and people providing essential services. 

The full list of essential workers is expected to published early tomorrow.  
 
In the interim, businesses and services which consider themselves essential services have been advised to remain open, pending publication of the list.

The announcement comes after a further 302 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total here to 2,121.

Varadkar said health officials were concerned that more than 50% of the confirmed cases in Ireland involved community transmission and that clusters were developing in places such as nursing homes and residential care settings.

“We believe that now is the time for these further actions,” he said.

‘We need to go further’

“These are radical actions aimed at saving as many people’s lives as possible. In the days and weeks ahead,” Varadkar said. 

We’re not prisoners of fate. We can influence what’s going to happen to us next. 

“So I’m asking people to give meaning to our freedom and liberty by agreeing to these restrictions, restricting how we live our lives, so that others may live.”

Varadkar said there was not much else the government could do to restrict movement but that gardaí do have powers to police the restrictions. However, he expressed hope that this would be achieved with the “consent and co-operation” of the public rather than coercion.

“The best way we can achieve this is by consent,” the Taoiseach said. “If people understand that is going to be much more powerful than anything our gardaí can do – but they are available to police it if necessary,” he added.

Speaking at tonight’s briefing, Health Minister Simon Harris said the further measures advised by public health experts were necessary  “to give ourselves the very best chance of reducing the impact of this virus and saving lives”.

“It has been a shock to many of us to see the number of deaths grow in recent days. This is the reality that we face. This is the now that we are difficult. So we have to accept these temporary, but difficult restrictions, now in the hope of better times ahead.”

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said health officials have seen encouraging signs so far in the battle to stop the spread of Covid-19 but warned “we need to go further” due to the day-on-day increase in ICU admittance. 

“First of all, we’ve seen over the course of recent weeks, a drop in the number of contacts associated with each case that we identify and then we follow up in contact tracing. This gives us encouragement that the public is working with us.

We’ve also seen that the day on day increase in the total number of cases, has slowed down, relative to what we might have expected a number of weeks ago.

“We think we’re still at an early point in the course of this disease. We think now is the time for us to move to strengthen the measures further to try to spend two weeks to really suppress the transmission of this virus as much as possible in the community. ”

Data from HPSC, as of midnight, Wednesday 25 March shows that 419 cases (26% of 1,639 cases) have been hospitalised and of those hospitalised, 59 cases have been admitted to ICU. 

‘Everybody’s interest’ 

Thousands of gardaí on foot, bike and mobile patrol will be out around the country this weekend as part of the force’s nationwide policing operation focused on supporting public compliance with the new restrictions. 

The policing operation will run from this evening until 7am on Monday morning.

Gardaí said they will be encouraging people to maintain the necessary public health measures but it will intervene where venues/ outlets are not in compliance or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended measures.

“An Garda Síochána’s priority is keeping people safe and that will continue this weekend. There will be a major policing plan across the country with high visibility of Garda members at key locations,” Commissioner Drew Harris said. 

It is vital that people adhere to the social distancing guidelines. This will reduce the spread of Covid-19 and save lives. The vast majority of people are complying with the guidelines and we want that to continue this weekend. By all of us working together, we can flatten the curve and keep our loved ones safe.

An Garda Síochána have asked people and families not to attend popular locations for overly long periods and where the numbers of persons start to increase at any location to leave such areas.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said that gardaí will police with the consent of the people, “as it has always done”. 

“It is in everybody’s interest that people comply with these measures,” Twomey added. 

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Adam Daly

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