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Explainer: Here are the new Covid-19 restrictions coming into effect

Cabinet signed off on the measures earlier today.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that the entire country will move to Level 5 of Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday night amid a surge in cases of the virus.

These are the most severe set of restrictions in the government’s Living with Covid roadmap, but today’s announcement contains some ‘softer’ measures such as social bubbles and additional guests at wedding ceremonies.

The restrictions will come into effect from midnight on Wednesday night for a period of six weeks.

It’s planned they will come to an end by 1 December. 

So, what exactly does a move to Level 5 mean in terms of restrictions?

Here are the main points:

  • A 5km travel limit for exercise will be in place under Level 5
  • ‘Support bubbles’ between two households will also be implemented for lone parents and vulnerable people
  • Only essential retailers will be allowed to stay open 
  • Schools, creches and other childcare services will also remain open
  • There will be a ban on evictions
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme will be amended

Below, the measures are outlined category by category… 

Social and family gatherings

  • No visitors to your home or garden
  • It is possible to meet with one other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise

Support ‘bubbles’ are being introduced. Here’s how they are defined in a government statement tonight: 

In order to support those who risk isolation, such as single adult households and those who have shared parenting or shared custody arrangements; those living alone who have mental health challenges, or those living with partner with dementia for example, it will be possible for those in such circumstances to nominate one other household with whom they can mix.

Education

  • Schools, creches and other childcare services will remain open 

Organised indoor gatherings (cinemas, theatres, etc)

  • No organised indoor gatherings should take place

Organised outdoor gatherings

  • No organised outdoor gatherings should take place

Weddings

  • The number of guests allowed at weddings will stay at 25

This is a divergence from the Level 5 restrictions in the Living with Covid roadmap, which allowed for six attendees. 

The 25 includes the couple getting married and the celebrant. 

Funerals

  • Up to 10 mourners can attend

Sports

  • Individual training only (no exercise or dance classes) 
  • No matches or events to take place
  • Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools closed
  • Non-contact training can continue for school aged children, outdoors, in pods of 15
  • Professional, elite sports and inter-county games, horse racing and greyhound racing can continue behind closed doors

Bars, cafes and restaurants

  • Take away food or delivery only

‘Wet pubs’

  • Take away or delivery only
  • Wet pubs in Dublin remain closed

Retail

  • Essential retail only, all other retail and personal services will be closed
  • Face coverings must be worn

The list of essential retail and services is longer than during the last shutdown, with hardware shops, bicycle repair shops and opticians joining the likes of supermarkets, newsagents and pharmacies this time around.

Travelling within Ireland

  • People can travel within 5km of their home for exercise
  • There will be a penalty for movement outside 5km, with exemptions to this for essential work and purposes
  • The Taoiseach said tonight that legislation giving effect to such penalties would come before cabinet tomorrow. 

Essential purposes for travel include: 

  • Travelling to and from work, where work involves providing an essential service
  • To attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products
  • For vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, and in particular for those who live alone, as part of an extended household but excluding social family visits
  • To attend a wedding or funeral
  • For farming purposes, ie. food production and/or care of animals
  • To visit a grave

Work

  • People are being asked to work from home unless they work in health, social care or other essential services and cannot work from home

As a result of the fact that businesses have to close, the government is making changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme. 

The new payment structure for the PUP is as follows, with the rate of €350 restored for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week: 

Screenshot 2020-10-19 at 22.15.14

This change to payment rates will apply for payments issued from Tuesday 27 October in respect of all existing and new applicants. 

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The EWSS is also being amended to align with the amendment to PUP. This means there will be five payment rates/bands as follows: 

Screenshot 2020-10-19 at 22.16.26

This revised scheme will run to the end of January 2021.

Public transport

  • People are being asked to avoid public transport unless they are essential workers or using it for essential purposes only
  • People are being asked to walk or cycle where possible
  • Face coverings must be worn on public transport
  • Public transport capacity will be restricted to 25%

Other restrictions

  • Religious services will be held online. Places of worship will remain open for private prayer. 
  • All museums, galleries and other cultural attractions will be closed
  • Hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but only to support provision of essential services
  • Outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks will remain open with protective measures in place
  • Libraries will be available for online services only
  • Visiting to long-term residential care facilities – such as nursing homes and care homes – will be suspended, aside from critical and compassionate circumstances
  • 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. 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.

With reporting by Orla Ryan

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