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Coronavirus restrictions to remain in place until at least Tuesday 5 May, Taoiseach announces

Simon Harris said that garda enforcement powers will be extended for the next three-and-a-half weeks.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

RESTRICTIONS ON PUBLIC movement and other measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 are to remain in place until Tuesday 5 May.

The announcement was made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon from Government buildings following advice from the national public health emergency team. 

Varadkar thanked the public for the sacrifices they’ve made so far but said the restrictions needed to be extended to further slow the spread of the virus. 

On Friday 27 March the Taoiseach announced a significant tightening of measures already in place to respond to the pandemic. 

Everybody in Ireland was told to stay at home for an initial two weeks. Exceptions were allowed for essential workers travelling to work, and for people travelling to shop for essential items, for vital family healthcare reasons or to take physical exercise within a 2km radius. 

Shielding or cocooning was also introduced for all of those over 70 years of age and specific categories of people who are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19.  

“We all want to be outside. We want to be with our friends and family. We want to see the mountains and the sea. We want to feel that we can go anywhere. We want to be free. And I know it is very difficult, but every sacrifice that we make is helping to save lives. It’s making sure that our health service is not overwhelmed,” Varadkar said this afternoon. 

We’ve been able to shelter, the most vulnerable and protect them. Your sacrifices are making a difference. It slows the spread of the virus considerably. But unfortunately, we have not stopped that spread. We all know people who are suffering and breathing at this time. Too many have died. And sadly more will die and get sick before this is over. 

Varadkar urged the public not to become complacent in the coming three-and-a-half weeks, adding “we cannot lose focus”.

“I know many of us would like to know when things will go back to normal, and life will be as it was. We are working towards that time. We’re planning carefully so that we get there safely,” he said. 

He stressed that the easing of restrictions will depend on what happens over the course of the next two or three weeks and how people respond.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said that following a meeting of the national public health emergency team this morning, no additional measures were advised.

“Our recommendation was to just stick with the current set of measures but for an extended period of time. What we’ve seen over the course of the last number of week is a substantial drop in the so-called reproduction number in the population,” Holohan said. 

“Obviously if we see that stalled in a way that gives us concern we might have to give further consideration to that, but we think that’s the right set of measures for now. We haven’t advised government to take any additional measures at this moment in time.”

Garda powers 

Health Minister Simon Harris said that garda enforcement powers will be extended for the next three-and-a-half weeks alongside the restrictions.

Gardaí have been carrying out hundreds of checkpoints and found that the vast majority of the public have been complying with the government’s recommendations made in mid-March relating to social distancing.  

Before new regulations were signed off earlier this week, gardaí were effectively powerless to deal with cases where people did not comply with restrictions.

Gardaí are now able to arrest those who do not abide by Covid-19 restrictions, including those who exercise more than 2km away from their homes or people who travel for non-essential purposes – until 5 May. 

Those who are convicted face a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of €2,500.

Varadkar said his desire was not to turn Ireland into a police state by granting gardaí these extensive powers “that can be used as they have to be used”.

“I don’t want to see those powers used anything other than sparingly, as a last resort. The vast majority of people have complied and are cooperating,  and that needs to continue. And I believe that will continue. I want to thank the Irish people for their cooperation and their forbearance to date.”

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Adam Daly

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