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THE TAOISEACH HAS confirmed that the country will enter into Level 3 of Covid-19 restrictions from midnight tomorrow. 

Last night, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommended that the entire country enter Level 5 – the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions. 

The government, however, rejected the Level 5 recommendation earlier today and met to approve Level 3 this evening. 

More on today’s developments:

Hello, and welcome to TheJournal.ie‘s Liveblog.

I’ll be keeping you updated throughout the afternoon as Cabinet prepares to meet following NPHET’s recommendation that the entire country move to Level 5. 

Our political correspondent Christina Finn tells us that Cabinet is due to meet at 5.30pm. 

If you’re just tuning in there’s been a number of developments since last night’s NPHET decision. 

The GAA has suspended all club games at all levels with immediate effect until further notice. 

A statement released to clubs says that the association has taken this decision following “a number of incidents” in relation to post-match celebrations and “a lack of social distancing” at recent games.

Teaching unions, meanwhile, are seeking clarification on whether it is safe for schools to stay open if the country goes into Level 5 restrictions. 

The second-level and further education Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has said it is “seeking urgent engagement” with the Department of Education and Skills and the government on any national move a higher level of Covid-19 restrictions.  

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has similarly called for a “comprehensive review of the medical and related guidance” that allows for second-level schools to remain open if Ireland moves to Level 5.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has left Government buildings after briefing the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and a number of Cabinet Ministers this afternoon. 

008 Holohan leaves Source: Sasko Lazarov

Last night’s recommendation was met with surprise in Government circles.

The news broke at around 8.30pm last night, and speaking this afternoon Labour leader Alan Kelly said it had lead to sleepless nights for people around the country. Kelly also called on NPHET to share the data on which the decision was made. 

In a tweet, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said moving to higher level of restrictions without adequate supports for workers, families, services and businesses “would be catastrophic”.

This afternoon Senator Michael McDowell called on coalition leaders to reject NPHET’s advice. 

If you’re just joining us, we’re hearing from Leinster House that the next step is for Government to “examine the rationale put forward” by NPHET in making its Level 5 recommendation. 

Full Cabinet meeting expected to take place at 5.30pm. 

Of course, many have been calling for the data behind NPHET’s decision to be made public. 

We’ve taken a look at the most recent statistics to give a sense of how Covid-19 has been spreading in Ireland. 

With hospitalisations and ICU cases on the rise, public health officials have urged caution and consistently called for people to reduce their social contacts.  

BREAKING: Government is proposing to move to Level 3 restrictions nationwide – subject to Cabinet approval – after rejecting NPHET’s recommendation to move to Level 5.

NEW: We’re hearing this afternoon that the Government is set to propose nationwide Level 3 restrictions after rejecting NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation. 

Government sources have said that Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and his team told party leaders that the recommendation to move to Level 5 was not in line with the Government’s published plan.

It is understood party leaders and ministers at this afternoon’s meeting were told that the move to Level 5 would be outside the norm of Europe but that it was argued that Ireland is “braver”.

Stay tuned for more…

It is understood that there will be a focus on enforcement and adherence to restrictions under Level 3 after the Government rejected NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation. 

It is believed that no assurances were given at this afternoon’s meeting that Level 5 restrictions would last just four weeks, according to one Government source. 

If you’re just joining us, the Government looks set to propose that the entire country is put under Level 3 restrictions after rejecting NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation this afternoon. 

The Level 5 advice caused considerable consternation among Cabinet Ministers, business groups among others. 

Earlier today, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “The mandate of NPHET is to advise Government.

It is one step in the process for Government to assess a proportionate and whole of society response to the pandemic.

At this stage in the Covid crisis, it is gravely dysfunctional that NPHET communications continue to be leaked into the public domain, substantially undermining the necessary political oversights and assessments that are built into the Living with Covid framework.”

Meanwhile, our political reporter Christina Finn is at Leinster House where there is “considerable anger” about the way NPHET handled its latest recommendation. 

Looking to the international stage, its looks like Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is being tested for Covid-19. 

If you’re just joining us, it looks like we’ve reached a pivotal moment in the relationship between the Government and NPHET. 

It’s worth noting again the serious level of concern NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation led to since the news first broke last night.

Earlier today, 12 trade associations and 429 individual businesses wrote to the Taoiseach expressing their “significant concerns” about the response to Covid-19.

The letter is co-signed by 216 hotels, 115 pubs and bars, 52 companies from the event sector or that supply the drinks and hospitality sector, 19 alcoholic drinks suppliers, 27 food and non-drinks suppliers and 12 trade associations on behalf of their entire membership.

The companies that signed today’s letter together employ thousands of people in Ireland. Their impact reaches well beyond those who are directly employed, and touches every city, town, village and rural community, with a far-reaching supply chain.

The letter said that many businesses operating in the experience economy are being hit disproportionately.
The traders claimed that the current Irish approach risks “not just short term, but long-lasting and irreparable damage to the economy and Irish society”.

The focus now will shift to a series of questions many will want to see answered by both the Government and NPHET.

Firstly, what was NPHET’s rationale/evidence for its Level 5 recommendation?

Secondly, why did the Government reject it and can it be sure that a nationwide Level 3 will reduce cases considering Level 3 restrictions in Dublin did little to stem the continued rise in cases? 

And finally, can the HSE and Government give assurances that ICU and hospital bed capacity is capable of dealing with a continued surge, should cases fail to stabilise?

A brief interlude if you’re just joining us. 

US President Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany has tested positive for Covid-19. 

More on this, McEnany confirmed her positive result in a statement on Twitter this afternoon.

She said she had previously tested negative every day since last Thursday when US President Donald Trump tested positive for the disease. 

She said she tested positive this morning “while experiencing no symptoms”. 

“No reporters, producers, or members of the press are listed as close contacts by the White House Medical Unit,” McEnany said. 

“Moreover, I definitively had no knowledge of Hope Hicks’ diagnosis prior to holding a a White House press briefing on Thursday.”

She said she will now begin the “quarantine process” and work remotely “on behalf of the American People”. 

It was reported on Friday morning Irish time that Donald Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. 

We understand there is no NPHET Briefing this evening at the Department of Health. 

Briefings usually take place on a Monday and Wednesday evening but considering today’s events it’s perhaps no surprise. 

There will, however, be a press conference later this evening. Cabinet is due to meet at 5.30pm. Unclear yet if Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan will be joining the Taoiseach at the podium later. 

UPDATE from our political reporter Christina Finn at Leinster House who understands that only outdoor dining will be allowed nationwide under Level 3 restrictions. 

If you’re just joining us, hello and welcome. 

Cabinet is due to meet in five minutes time to discuss the Government’s recommendation that Level 3 restrictions be implemented nationwide. 

Meanwhile, TheJournal.ie‘s Stephen McDermott reports that Professor Sam McConkey, from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, has said Covid-19 case numbers will still rise – albeit more slowly – if the Government rejects official health advice to move the country to Level 5 restrictions instead.

Reacting to reports this afternoon that the Government will move to nationwide Level 3 restrictions, McConkey told a town hall meeting of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group that the outcome would be the same as most counties remaining at Level 2.

“Unfortunately, I think that will not bring the R number to less than one, that we’ll still have similar numbers of cases with just a slower rate of increase,” he said.

“And after a number of weeks, we’ll end up escalating the level [of restrictions]. I think the outcome will be the same, but just slower.”

And it’s ‘No Comment’ from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly as he arrives for this evening’s Cabinet meeting. 

NEW: NPHET has confirmed 518 further cases of Covid-19 in Ireland today. 

There have been no further deaths. 

Today’s cases: 134 in Dublin; 53 in Cork; 49 in Limerick; 34 in Donegal; 32 in Meath; remaining 216 cases are spread across 20 counties.

In his first comments since returning to his post, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer said today: “We have seen in recent days a significant and concerning deterioration in the epidemiological situation nationally.

“It is vital that we do everything in our power now to arrest the current trajectory nationally and very substantially suppress the virus back down to a low level of transmission in advance of the winter months.

“Do not become distracted from the core public health messages; wash hands regularly, keep your distance, wear face coverings where appropriate, avoid crowded environments, cut your social contacts down to minimum levels, know the symptoms and isolate yourself and contact your GP immediately if you experience them.”

If you’re just joining us, Cabinet is currently meeting, NPHET has confirmed 518 more cases of Covid-19 in Ireland and our reporter Michelle Hennessy writes that the nursing home sector is concerned that outbreaks in this setting were set out as one of the reasons NPHET recommended a move to Level 5 restrictions at the weekend.

Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, told TheJournal.ie that it is “worrying” that there have been seven new outbreaks in nursing homes in the last week, but pointed out that a number of weeks ago the number of open outbreaks was 36.

“Thankfully that means some are coming off that outbreak list,” he said. “But seven new outbreaks is a worrying development and the fact that the CMO mentioned that in his letter to the government is also concerning.

“We know there is a direct correlation between high incidence in the community and transmission in nursing homes – that’s the bottom line. The government has to get it under control in the community in order to keep it out of nursing homes.”

As Cabinet continues, parents have been urged not to panic ahead of Christmas as many rushed to toy shops as it was believed Ireland could have Level 5 restrictions imposed. 

The highest level of restrictions means that only essential shops, such as supermarkets, are allowed open, meaning toy shops would have to close.

It now appears that the Government is to impose Level 3 restrictions nationwide, meaning all retail outlets will remain open. 

However, large queues began forming outside a number of Smyths Toy Stores across the country with many parents apprehensive that their children could go without their Christmas presents if the highest level of restrictions were imposed. 

Smyths has moved to reassure its customers that it does not envisage a shortage of goods in the run-up to this year’s festive season. 

Garreth MacNamee reports here

NEW: Indoor dining in pubs and restaurants will be banned across the country under Level 3 restrictions being imposed from tomorrow.

Outdoor seating and service will be allowed outside restaurants and wet pubs.

Pubs that do not serve food outside Dublin will be allowed to open but they will only be able to provide an outdoor service to a maximum of 15 people. 

However, ‘wet pubs’ in Dublin will still be banned from opening unlike their counterparts in other counties.

More from reporter Christina Finn here.

BREAKING: The Cabinet has approved the country entering into Level 3. 

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to make an address at 9pm to formally announce that the country will enter into Level 3 restrictions. 

Read more about it here.

Hello, and thanks for joining us. Taoiseach Micheál Martin is set to address the nation in the next few minutes after Cabinet agreed to Level 3 restrictions for the whole country. 

The Taoiseach says: “The facts show there is an exponential growth…we all must respond.”

Until there is an effective vaccine, this virus will continue to have an impact…”we must continue to manage it and protect ourselves.”

Screenshot 2020-10-05 at 21.06.40 - Display 2 Source: RTÉ

“If we don’t alter these trends, there will be a serious impact,” say Micheál Martin, referencing NPHET modelling.

“The economic, social and non-Covid impacts of the response must be different now,” he adds.

BREAKING: Taoiseach confirms that as of tomorrow 12 midnight, ALL parts of the country move to Level 3 for a period of three weeks.

Taoiseach: Most people are following guidelines.

However, there is also no doubt that some are taking a more lax approach. “The virus is spreading because people are allowing it to spread.”

The Taoiseach says Covid-19 is “still deadly”, adding that up to 2,400 people have already lost their lives on this island. We cannot and should not forget this… The road ahead will continue to have many challenges.

In a statement following the Taoiseach’s address, the Government said: 

“This action is based on a review of the current public health advice and is in response to the deteriorating situation with the virus across the country. All counties will be at Level 3 for a period of 3 weeks until midnight on 27th October 2020, at which point the situation will be reviewed by the Government, based on the status of the virus and public health advice.

“In addition, in recognising that Level 3 is being extended in Dublin and Donegal beyond the three-week period, businesses in these counties will be eligible for a further 20% and 10% top-up respectively.”

It continued:

Placing all counties at Level 3 has the following implications:

  • Visitors to private homes and gardens should be limited to a maximum number of 6 from one other household.
     
  • No social/family gatherings should take place, with exemptions to this for weddings and funerals (see below).  
  • No organised indoor gatherings should take place.  Organised outdoor gatherings are permitted, up to a maximum of 15 people.
  • People should remain in their county (i.e. they must not leave to travel either domestically or internationally), with the exception of those who must travel for work, education and other essential purposes. 
  • People are asked to work from home unless absolutely necessary
  • Schools, Early Learning and Childcare services should remain open. Adult and Higher Education Institutions should remain open, but are asked to review protective measures and take steps to limit congregation as much as possible.   
  • You are asked to walk or cycle where possible so that public transport is available for use by essential workers and for essential work only.

Sports:

  • No matches or other sporting events should take place, with the exception of professional, elite, inter county and senior club championship – all to take place behind closed doors. 
  • Horse racing may continue, but behind closed doors. 
  • Non-contact training activities can continue in the outdoors and in pods of up to 15, with certain exemptions (see below). 
  • Indoor training should be confined to individuals only and no classes are to take place. 

Business and Services:

  • All retail shops and shopping centres may remain open. All services such as hairdressers, beauticians, barbers, opticians etc. may remain open with strict adherence to sectoral guidance on protective measures.  
  • All outdoor playgrounds, play areas, parks remain open.
  • Gyms/leisure centres, swimming pools may remain open for individual use only and with protective measures.
  • Hotels, Guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but with services limited to residents.
  • Restaurants and Cafes (including bars/pubs serving food/wet pubs) may remain open for take-away and delivery and outdoor dining/service to an absolute maximum of 15 people.  Wet pubs in Dublin remain closed.
  • Libraries will be available for e-services and call and collect.  
  • All indoor museums, galleries, cinemas and other cultural attractions should close.
  • Religious services will move online, though places of worship may remain open for private prayer.   

Over 70s & Medically Vulnerable:

  • Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement. 
  • It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.   
  • It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced. 
  • When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home.
  • It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.

Sin é folks, and thanks for joining us throughout the day. 

Stay safe, mind yourselves. 

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