Ireland will be plunged into one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe from Wednesday in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The Irish Government has agreed to impose Level 5 restrictions on the country for six weeks in a bid to combat the rise in cases of coronavirus.
Cabinet ministers made the decision at a meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin this evening. A formal announcement is expected later.
The restrictions will last until December 1.
Level 5 is the most stringent under the Irish system and asks citizens to ‘stay at home, except to exercise within 5 kilometres of your home.’
Under the new measures it is understood schools and creches will remain open, and elite level sports will be able to continue.
Public gatherings, except for small numbers at funerals and weddings, are banned and only essential shops are allowed to stay open.
Construction will also be allowed, but most non-essential retail, hairdressers, barbers and salons will have to close.
The public will be asked to work from home except for essential workers, and pubs, restaurants and cafes will only be able to provide takeaways and deliveries.
Funerals will be limited to 10 people, while it is believed up to 25 people will be allowed to attend weddings.
Ireland has recorded a total of 49,962 cases, with another 1,283 infections added to that tally in the last 24 hours.
However, fatalities remain low with just three deaths recorded on Sunday, adding to a total of 1,852. There have been no new deaths today.
Of the new cases, 235 were in Dublin, 232 in Cork, 60 in Galway, 47 in Limerick, 47 in Kerry, and the remaining 410 cases were spread across 21 counties.
As of 2pm this afternoon, 298 people with Covid-19 were in hospitals, including 34 people in intensive care units.
It comes as Wales was plunged into Welsh First Minister imposed a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown which will see bars, restaurants and all non-essential shops close from 6pm on Friday.
In other coronavirus developments today:
- The UK has recorded another 18,804 coronavirus cases today, a 34.6 per cent rise on last Monday. The tally of deaths has gone up by 80, 60 per cent higher than a week ago;
- Wales has confirmed it is going into a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, leaving England the only UK nation not to impose a form of the policy;
- England’s deputy chief medical officer has called for the nation’s 10pm pub curfew to be brought forward to 6pm
- A top government advisor said there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ as he predicts a Covid-19 vaccine will be ready by the end of March 2021
Fine Gael and coalition co-leader Leo Varadkar
Ireland has recorded a total of 49,962 cases, with another 1,283 infections added to that tally in the last 24 hours
Fatalities remain low with just three deaths recorded on Sunday, adding to a total of 1,852
Counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are currently at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3
Public health officials on Thursday recommended moving to Level 5 of the Covid-19 restrictions framework for six weeks.
It was the second time in a fortnight that Nphet officials had advised the Government to move to the highest level of measures.
The Government did not heed the previous advice. Instead they placed the entire country into Level 3 restrictions.
Currently counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.
Political leaders received briefings from health officials in Dublin on Saturday about their concerns over the recent rapid spread of the virus.
The Cabinet sub-committee met this morning to discuss Nphet’s latest advice.
The leaders of the Government parties also met to discuss the final details of the plan ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Monday evening.
Earlier, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan indicated that any new restrictions would not be introduced immediately saying ‘you don’t just flick a switch’.
Asked about a timeline for introducing new measures as he arrived for a sub-Cabinet meeting on Monday, he said: ‘We’ll decide that.
‘I think one of the lessons previously is you don’t just flick a switch, you have to give people a wee bit of notice. But Cabinet will have to decide that.’
Green Party leader Mr Ryan said he hoped the decisions reached today would give clarity to the public.
He said: ‘I hope there can be because that’s the important part of it. The Tanaiste put it right the other day, you need a series of indicators, but that will be for Cabinet to decide. ‘
He also defended the length of time Government has taken to act on Nphet’s advice to move to level five restrictions for six weeks, which were delivered to Health Minster Stephen Donnelly on Thursday.
‘I think it’s getting things right. It’s complicated, there’s a huge amount of implications for people’s everyday lives.
‘I think it’s appropriate that we try and get the arrangements and the details right in that time.’
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that social supports must be put in place.
She also called for the cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) to be fully restored.
Ms McDonald told RTE’s Morning Ireland that changes to the restrictions must be ‘balanced’ and clearly communicated because people were going to ‘really struggle’ and would be ‘worried sick’ by any new restrictions.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan last week urged the government to bring in the Level 5 restrictions for a six week period.
Counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.
On Sunday, it was reported that a new lockdown would last for four weeks, but it has since emerged that ministers are being asked to back six weeks.
Gaelic games, horse and greyhound racing are still permitted behind closed doors, under the Level 5 rules.
Non-contact sports training for children and young people can continue outdoors but only in pods of 15. Funerals will be limited to 10 people.
It comes as Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford today said that everyone in Wales will be ordered to ‘stay at home’ unless they are critical workers or are unable to work from home.
The Labour chief warned failure to act now would mean ‘more people will die’ as he said households will be banned from mixing indoors and outdoors while exercise outside will be allowed but it must ‘begin and end at home’.
Primary schools will reopen after half-term next week but secondaries will only reopen years seven and eight, and for pupils doing exams.
The decision to impose a ‘short and deep’ lockdown until November 9, which echoes national demands made by Sir Keir Starmer and wipes out Halloween and Bonfire Night, has sparked a furious political backlash after statistics suggested Wales has a lower coronavirus infection rate than England.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock today revealed that millions more people in the North of England face being plunged into Tier 3 lockdown this week.
Mr Hancock said talks would take place with local leaders in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, the North East and Teesside after deals were agreed for Liverpool and Lancashire.
But it came amid a continued stand-off with Greater Manchester. Ministers have sent an ultimatum to the area’s Labour mayor, Andy Burnham, and mutinous MPs that they must do a deal on today – or face being forced into the tougher curbs as early as tomorrow.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick warned that talks had gone on ‘too long’ and urged the region to accept a package of funding worth up to £100million.
Downing Street attempted to pile pressure on the Mancunian rebels today by warning that the region’s hospitals are on track to be overwhelmed by October 28 unless the coronavirus outbreak is brought under control.