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'Under review' Further Covid-19 restrictions cannot be ruled out, Taoiseach Micheal Martin warns

Mr Martin also said that he could not be sure the measures will be enough to curb the spread of the virus.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Taoiseach has not ruled out further measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

Micheal Martin this evening announced a range of fresh measures to address a worrying rise in Covid-19 cases, which has left Ireland’s health system under severe pressure heading into the winter.

Yet he also said that he could not be sure the measures will be enough to curb the spread of the virus.

The Government has agreed that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants in Ireland will have a midnight closing time from Thursday.

Residents of hotels will be exempt from the new regulations.

People will also be urged to work from home from Friday, if they can.

Colleges and universities will not revert to online teaching.

Mr Martin confirmed on Tuesday evening that Covid-19 passes will be required for cinemas and theatres.

He also said that household close contacts should restrict their movement for five days pending completion of antigen testing.

“I know that the picture emerging across Europe and the increasing numbers over the last week in our own country are a cause of deep concern,” he said in an address to the nation.

“And I know that no one wants to go back to a world of widespread restrictions.

“That is what this evening is about.”

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Later, Mr Martin told reporters that he could not guarantee the new measures would succeed.

“It remains to be seen as to whether these measures will be sufficient to hold back the tide of infection and the hospitalisation,” he said.

“We’re not ruling out any further measures, we’ll keep them under review.”

Mr Martin said that while it is important to give time to see if the new measures are enough to improve the current situation, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) may come back to the Government with fresh advice at any time.

“I think I’m taking this step by step and we’ll see closer to the end of this month what the scenario will look in December.”

While he defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic so far, pointing in particular to Ireland’s world-leading vaccine uptake and the expansion of the booster programme, Mr Martin repeatedly said that the near future remains uncertain.

“It is not like we’re back at normal times. We’re not. No one can predict with certainty the journey of this pandemic.”

“Nobody wants to go back. We want to try to keep society open. But we can never be certain. We can never guarantee what the outcome will be because of the nature of the virus.”

On Monday, ministers were given a stark warning at the Cabinet sub-committee meeting, with estimates that up to 500 people may be in intensive care by next month.

The best-case scenario could see around 200 people in ICU.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed on Tuesday that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended that an extra dose of an mRNA vaccine be provided to anyone aged 16-59 with an underlying condition, as well as all residents of long-term care facilities.

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Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys (Niall Carson/PA)

Anyone aged between 50 and 59 will also receive a jab, if already vaccinated.

It comes as the booster programme continues for healthcare workers and older people, as well as the immunocompromised.

Mr Martin said that the new measures were a proportionate response to the crisis.

“This is about balance. We have a vaccination programme. We’re rolling out the booster programme,” he said.

“We believe it is appropriate for now. We’re not ruling out anything further.”

Concern has already been expressed about the impact of the new measures on the hospitality industry, especially on nightclubs.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) called on Tuesday on the Government to immediately reintroduce Covid supports for the late-night sector.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said: “We were told that if we waited until the majority of the public was vaccinated we would be able to get back to trading. Well, we waited and that wasn’t enough.”

Despite demands from opposition politicians earlier on Tuesday, the Government said that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will not be re-introduced alongside the new measures.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said: “This isn’t like a previous lockdown where the entirety of the economy is closed.”

“This is a curfew, not closure,” she said.

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