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'The situation is extremely serious': Return to full Level 5 restrictions until 31 January

The new restrictions were announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening .

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced the country is to re-enter Level 5 lockdown for a month, until 31 January.

The new restrictions were announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin in a speech outside Government Buildings this evening, following a Cabinet meeting this afternoon.

Level 5 will come into effect at midnight tonight, 30 December for all measures, with the exception of non-essential retail and gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools.  These businesses should close from close of business on 31 December. A list of essential retailers can be found here

Level 5 restrictions will remain in place until midnight on 31 January 2021.

Speaking to reporters tonight, the Taoiseach said it was “fair to say” the restrictions would go on longer than January.

Under the fresh guidelines, household visits will no longer be allowed, while non-essential retail and gyms will be forced to close and a 5km travel limit will be in place. 

There will also be a delay in the reopening of schools following pressure from unions. They were supposed to reopen following the Christmas break on 6 January. However, the reopening has been pushed back to 11 January.

Under the new restrictions, visitors to homes or gardens are not allowed, up to six people are allowed to attend weddings while 10 mourners can attend funerals. 

In his address this evening, Martin added that the reproductive rate of the disease here is between 1.6 and 1.8. He said the situation now is “extremely serious”. He added that “this is not a time for nuance in our response”.

 In a statement tonight, the government said:

The Government has considered a number of factors in arriving at this decision, particularly NPHET concerns that the epidemiological profile of COVID-19 has continued to deteriorate very substantially.
It is recognised that this decision will have an impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, but the clear message is that we must all now stay at home, with the exception of essential purposes, in order to stop the spread of the virus. Supports such as the PUP and the CRSS will continue to be made available to those impacted.

A double payment of the CRSS, up to a maximum of €5,000 a week will be available to those subject to restrictions this week and next week. Businesses affected will be able to avail of commercial rates relief for the first three months of 2021.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is also available to help maintain people in jobs, along with extensive tax warehousing arrangements, reduced VAT rates, the spend and stay scheme, a range of reduced cost loans, grants and voucher schemes.

The Government further agreed that the ban on air travel and passenger travel on ferries from the UK will be extended to 6 January. As a similar new strain has been identified in South Africa, this ban will also apply to South Africa until the same date.

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Escalating cases 

The measures were introduced in response to escalating Covid-19 cases, with a record 1,718 new cases confirmed by health officials in Ireland this evening, along with 13 further deaths. A total of 90,157 cases have now been confirmed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Hospitalisations are also at a level not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, with 59 people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the highest figure recorded since the start of April.

Earlier today, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that rapidly growing case numbers and high numbers of close contacts had led to “an unprecedented and toxic combination of potential scenarios” and made the health service’s worst fears about the virus become a reality.

He revealed that the HSE is now hearing from around 100 Covid-19 patients a day who have between 20 and 30 close contacts.

With reporting by Stephen McDermott

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