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Level 5: Details of new restrictions confirmed for schools, creches, construction, travel and retail

Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke at Government Buildings this afternoon.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Image: Tom Honan/Julien Behal Photography

Updated Jan 6th 2021, 5:04 PM

TAOISEACH MICHÉAL MARTIN said today that schools will stay closed for the remainder of this month with a review to be taken on when they will reopen.

Schools have not reopened since the Christmas break due to surging Covid-19 cases in the community and Cabinet decided today that they should remain closed. 

Martin said in an address this afternoon however that students in the final year of their Leaving Certificate cycle will be allowed to attend school for three days a week. The Taoiseach reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the State exams proceeding as planned this year. 

The Taoiseach also said that special education should remain open “with protections in place”. 

Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing at Government Buildings this afternoon, the Taoiseach outlined a range of new restrictions on top of the Level 5 measures already in place.

Martin confirmed that all construction except that which is deemed “essential” will cease for the remainder of January, commencing from 6pm on Friday. 

The essential projects include health projects, schools and social housing with a list published on Gov.ie.

Martin also addressed childcare issues arising from the continued closure of schools, particularly relating to the children of essential workers. 

Childcare services will close generally until the end of the month, but can remain open for vulnerable children and the children of essential workers.

On retail, click and collect from non-essential retail outlets is no longer be permitted with immediate effect

Regarding travel, the current ban on travel from Britain and South Africa will continue until Saturday, at which point all passengers coming from those two countries will be required to be in possession of a negative PCR test that they acquired within 72 hours of travelling. 

This new mandatory requirement will be in place until the end of the month when it will be reviewed. 

Speaking about the decision that Leaving Cert students could attend schools for three days, the Taoiseach said it was “a difficult decision”. 

“Education is the great equaliser and it’s the single most important factor in the great progress that this country has made since its foundation,” he said, later adding:

“The issue is the mobilisation of people. There’s a big difference between 61,000 people coming in in a staggered way, 61,000 Leaving Cert students, as opposed to a million people which would involve the entire population of teachers and students.

“We know from last year the huge difficulty in terms of developing an alternative to the Leaving Certificate, and its importance for this generation of students.” 

In terms of supports, the government has also said that both the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme would remain at their current levels until 31 March. 

Virus spread

The announcement of even tougher Covid-19 restrictions comes as Ireland experiences a daily growth rate of Covid-19 cases that is outpacing most of Europe. 

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Earlier today, it was confirmed that the number of people currently in hospital with Covid-19 eclipsed the previous peak of the pandemic in April. 

Speaking about the situation, Martin said:

We are in a battle against the deadly and ever changing virus, the lockdown we are introducing today is designed to reflect that stark and simple reality. Unless you were involved in absolutely essential work, you have no reason to be away from your home and you simply must stay at home.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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