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The three coalition leaders will discuss the latest restrictions again today. Sam Boal/

Cabinet agrees to impose nationwide Level 5 restrictions for six weeks

It follows advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) last week.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Oct 2020

CABINET HAS AGREED to implement Level 5 restrictions across the country amid a worsening situation with the spread of Covid-19.

Ministers met this afternoon to discuss proposals to move Ireland into Level 5 – the most severe stage of restrictions – for six weeks.

It follows two separate recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in the last two weeks to move Ireland to Level 5 of the Covid-19 framework.

It was earlier reported that the Government was reluctant to move to Level 5, which will be akin in many ways to the first lockdown introduced in late March.

However, sources this afternoon indicated that NPHET’s advice could now be taken. understands that the measures could contain provisions for a social bubble – where two households can mix.

Schools and creches are likely to stay open, but restrictions will not allow people to go beyond 5km from their home, unless for essential reasons.

It is understood that the government intends to introduce a new band of €350 per week for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for people with prior earnings of €400 per week. 

Gyms and adult amateur sports training will be stopped, although elite and professional sports will be allowed to continue. However, there are still questions about whether golf will be allowed go ahead.

It is further understood that Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin has pushed for playgrounds to be allowed to remain open.

A full Cabinet meeting took place today to discuss the proposals before government, with a public announcement on any new restrictions set to be made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin tonight.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan earlier indicated that the proposals will not begin for a number of days.

“There’s a huge amount of implications for people’s everyday lives, and I think that it’s appropriate that we get the arrangements and the details right,” he said.

“The lessons previously are that you don’t just flick a switch; you have to give people a bit of notice.”

It is also believed that the restrictions will be lifted on a county-by-county basis, potentially depending on the level of Covid-19 in each county.

Yesterday, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that the government will take “decisive” action.

“It’s a really anxious time for people and I suppose I want people to know a few things this afternoon,” he said.

“Firstly, I want them to know that the government will act tomorrow, the action will be decisive and the action will be right across the country, it’ll be nationwide action.

“It’s clear now that the virus is at such a level within all our communities, the county-by-county approach will not be sufficient.

“So tomorrow we will have to bring in more restrictions.

“Level 3 has not worked in terms of getting the virus to where it needs to get to.”

Level 5 – the highest stage – would see bars and restaurants offering only takeaway service.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland, Junior Minister Thomas Byrne said that the government had an “absolute determination” to keep schools open, along with childcare facilities, despite the looming new restrictions. 

He urged people to “get back to basics”, and said that any further enforcement measures would only get us “so far”.

On the same programme, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald repeated calls to reverse cuts to the PUP to help support those who’ll be made unemployed by further restrictions. 

In Northern Ireland, schools are closed now until the beginning of November and McDonald said it was “extremely unhelpful, if not dangerous” to have two different approaches on the same island. 

Latest data

This evening health officials reported 1,031 new cases of Covid-19. No new deaths have been reported, with the total remaining at 1,852. 

235 of the new cases are in Dublin, 232 are in Cork, 60 are in Galway, 47 are in Limerick, 47 are in Kerry and the remaining 410 cases are spread across 21 counties. 

In a statement following the meetings on Saturday, the government said ministers had been briefed on the latest data relating to Covid-19, including an analysis of the virus in each region, hospital capacity and an update on the Test and Trace system.

Presentations were also given on the economic, employment and society-wide implications of moving to more severe restrictions.

Other significant issues were also discussed, including the mental health and domestic violence.

Appearing to hint that schools may not be closed, the statement added that the health team had advised ministers that children are safer in schools and that transmission rates there are low.

With reporting from Christina Finn, Sean Murray, Press Association

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