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Government expected to sign off on tighter Covid-19 restrictions

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says public will be given notice before new measures introduced – “You don’t just flick a switch.”

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A woman wearing a face mask passes a sign for a test centre in Co Cavan (Brian Lawless/PA)

A woman wearing a face mask passes a sign for a test centre in Co Cavan (Brian Lawless/PA)

A woman wearing a face mask passes a sign for a test centre in Co Cavan (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government is expected to sign off on plans to introduce further country-wide restrictions over the rising number of coronavirus cases.

It comes amid a record number of cases recorded over recent days.

Minister Eamon Ryan has indicated that any new restrictions will 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.”

Ministers are meeting today to discuss and finalise plans to move the country to a higher level of the Government’s Living with Covid-19 plan.

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.”

Political leaders received briefings from health officials in Dublin on Saturday about their concerns over the recent rapid spread of the virus.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended moving to Level 5 of the Covid-19 restrictions framework for six weeks.

Currently counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.

The Cabinet sub-committee is meeting this morning before the full Cabinet meets later on Monday to sign off on new measures.

The announcement is expected to be made late this evening.

Figures published on Monday morning show there are 298 people with Covid-19 in hospital.

Of those patients, 31 are in Intensive Care Units.

Minister of State Colm Brophy said the announcement is to be made around 9pm on Monday.

He added: “The Government is meeting throughout the day and we will have a clear statement from Government this evening.

“This is a very major set of decisions which have to be made and obviously it is to get them right.

“I think there will be a set of measures that will fall roughly in that area (between Level 4 and 5), they will be designed to take account the two primary objectives, which is the public health measures to safeguard the public.

“Everyone is very much aware of the other impacts like mental health, commercial business and other things we have learned.

“The Government has tried to put in place set of regulations to get a balance between what is important to keep our country open and functioning and what is important in protecting public health.”

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, was among the Nphet members to brief political leaders over the weekend.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, was among the Nphet members to brief political leaders over the weekend.

PA

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, was among the Nphet members to brief political leaders over the weekend.

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.

She added: “I think that reality shapes all other decisions, that reality of keeping people well and safe and alive, quite frankly, and ensuring that people who are going to really struggle and are worried sick, that the State acts to restore the PUP and the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

“(And) reinstates an absolute ban on evictions and and that mortgage holders are not left at the mercy of banks.”

On Sunday, a further 1,283 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), bringing the national total to 49,962.

Three more deaths with the virus were recorded, taking the toll to 1,852.

Sinn Fein housing spokesman Eoin O Broin has criticised the Government’s five-level roadmap for living with coronavirus, saying it has “caused enormous confusion”.

He said the Government had used “mid-point levels” in the five-step plan, which had sown public confusion.

He said: “What people need is a very, very clear plan. Not just a plan in terms of the new restrictions and the additional supports, but what we do on the other side of that.

“I do think the mixed messages from Government and the mid-level points in their plan have caused a lot of confusion.”
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