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'Pull together and follow the spirit of the rules': Taoiseach confirms entire country will move to Level 5

The announcement comes two weeks after NPHET first recommended that Ireland move to Level 5.

NO FEE TAOISEACH GOV BUILDINGS JB3 (1) Source: Julien Behal

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has announced that Ireland will move to Level 5 restrictions for six weeks in response to an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases. 

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.

Announcing the restrictions tonight, the Taoiseach said that “many people have done everything that has been asked of them, but some have not”.

“As Taoiseach, I’m asking everyone again to take this threat seriously.”

He said that although the spread of the coronavirus has slowed under Level 3 restrictions, “this has not been enough, and further action is now required”.

Martin said that if the restrictions work and people follow “the spirit of these new rules”, Christmas will be “a very special time and will give us all some respite from the hardship of the last seven months”.

If each of us does what is asked of us for a period of just six weeks, we will suppress this virus and we will emerge from these restrictions on 1 December.

Details

A 5km travel limit will be in place under Level 5, and people will only be allowed travel further for essential reasons. There will be a penalty, expected to be a fine, for those who move outside their 5km limit. Speaking at a press conference the Taoiseach confirmed planned legislation putting this into effect would go before Cabinet tomorrow.

In a divergence from what was originally contained in the Living with Covid roadmap, a household can meet with one other household if it is outside, and away from their home.

‘Support bubbles’ will also be introduced for lone parents, senior citizens, and vulnerable people; this will mean a household can pair up with one other household to form one household unit.

This guidance has been in the works since the last set of restrictions were announced last week (which advised against visitors to people’s homes or gardens) in order to help support people who are at risk of social isolation or mental ill-health. This could apply to single-adult households, those living alone who have mental health challenges, or those living with a partner who has dementia.

Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement, but are advised to stay at home and to limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.

Only essential retailers and essential services will be allowed to stay open: the Government is to “improve” the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Taoiseach said.

This involves the Covid PUP rate of €350 being restored for those who were earning over €400 per week. The EWSS scheme is also being expanded, and a moratorium on evictions will also be brought in. 

Pubs, gastropubs, restaurants and cafés will no longer be allowed to seat people outdoors for meals, and instead will only offer takeaway and delivery services. Wet pubs in Dublin remain closed. 

Schools, creches and other childcare services will also remain open. 

The number of guests allowed at weddings will stay at 25, in 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 celebrant.

Under the Living with Covid guidelines, gyms and adult amateur sports training will be stopped, while professional and elite sports – such as the GAA championships – will be allowed to continue. Horse-racing and greyhound racing can continue behind closed doors.

Public transport will operate at 25% capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work (it had been at 50% capacity under Level 3).

The announcement of these new restrictions comes two weeks after the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) first recommended that the government move to Level 5.

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Cabinet rejected it then and instead implemented a nationwide Level 3; Tánaiste Leo Varadkar later said that the Level 5 recommendation from NPHET hadn’t been thought through.

Last Thursday, NPHET recommended again that the government implement Level 5 restrictions, based on the current trajectory of the disease.

You can read more about the government’s Level 5 restrictions here, find an explainer on the latest restrictions here, and read about what counts as an essential retailer here.

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