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'We cannot afford to wait and see': Taoiseach calls for solidarity as first localised restrictions set to take effect

The Taoiseach addressed the country after 6pm this evening.

Image: Julien Behal Photography

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said a “nuanced and more sustainable” approach to re-opening the country is needed, as he announced the implementation of new restrictions for the people of Kildare, Laois and Offaly this evening.

He said that we “cannot afford to wait and see” with Covid-19 “because the disease is not waiting”, and that the government was prepared to make difficult decisions to stem the spread of the virus. 

“We all need to understand that this virus is still a deep, urgent threat,” Martin said. “It is merciless and unrelenting. It won’t be a case of moving forwards step by step.”

He said the main priority for the government was ensuring schools could re-open at the end of this month, and actions being taken now were aimed at ensuring they could welcome back students again for the new school year.

The Taoiseach made the announcement in an address to the nation just after 6pm.

Regional restrictions for Kildare, Laois and Offaly will come into effect from midnight following an increase of Covid-19 cases in the three counties over the past two weeks. 

Those resident in either of the three counties are advised not to travel outside of their county in a bid to prevent transmission of the virus. People are asked to only undertake essential travel at this time. 

People travelling into these counties are asked to do so only for essential reasons. 

Pubs and restaurants are to operate as takeaway only. Childcare facilities will remain open as will retail outlets. The restrictions will come into effect from midnight and last for two weeks. 

This evening, 98 new cases of the virus were confirmed in Ireland bringing the total here to 26,470. A further four deaths brought the death toll to 1,772. After remaining relatively low for a number of weeks, the number of new cases each day has begun to rise significantly again.

In his speech this evening, the Taoiseach also said that the government will ramp up testing in the affected sectors in this region – such as meat plants and Direct Provision – and that any business required to close on public health grounds will remain so until authorities are satisfied there’s no longer a threat.

Martin said he understand everyone wants to return to normality but he was sure the vast majority of people “understand we’re in it together and will do as asked”.

He said Ireland is doing well by international standards but will face setbacks like other countries in the fight against Covid-19.

“While the burden of this evening’s decision falls heaviest on Kildare, Laois and Offaly, the message needs to be understood by everyone across the country,” he said.

There is nothing inevitable about progress, the Taoiseach said, adding that we all need to take action to ensure schools can open as planned at the end of the month and the businesses that have re-opened can remain open.

He added that – 35 years ago – the late John Hume campaigned under the slogan “solidarity is strength”. Martin said that spirit has never been more important as today. 

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With reporting from Cónal Thomas, Christina Finn

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Sean Murray

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