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'It's for the good of the country' - Health Minister Stephen Donnelly defends Government decision to move into level 3

Pictured Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD speaking to the media at the publication of the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report. Photo: Sam Boal/

Pictured Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD speaking to the media at the publication of the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report. Photo: Sam Boal/

Eoin Murphy and Aoife Walsh

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has insisted that the Government's decision to go against Nphet’s controversial level five recommendation was “for the good of the country.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin confirmed last night that Cabinet rejected the National Public Health and Emergency Team's (Nphet) call to enforce a full lockdown, but will implement level three restrictions nationwide.

The recommendation was outlined in a letter sent to Government by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Sunday night.

Dr Holohan warned that, without a full-scale lockdown, there will be up to 2,300 Covid-19 cases by November 7.

Speaking this morning, Mr Donnelly said the decision to defy the recommendation was made "in the context of our society, our communities, jobs, and our economy."

He insisted that the government had "looked carefully" at the advice, but didn’t believe the data warranted a full-scale lockdown.

"We look carefully at the evidence, and it is our view that the measures required to move to level five as set out in the framework, we don't believe that those measures have yet been met," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"It has deteriorated to the point that we are now moving to level three which is a very significant step, but we don't believe that the data changed between Thursday and Sunday to a level that would warrant moving from level two to level five," he added.

The Minister said HSE chief Paul Reid has reassured him that hospitals and ICU wards have the capacity to handle a potential upsurge in Covid-19 related admissions.

"I spoke directly to the chief executive of the HSE and asked if the HSE currently has capacity for Covid cases, and an immediate ability to deal with the situation, both in terms of ward beds and intensive care beds, and he believes we do," he said.

The entire country will move into level three from midnight on Tuesday, while the measures currently in place in Dublin and Donegal will be extended by three weeks with improved enforcement.

Under level three, the public are advised to avoid using public transport and domestic travel unless for work, education and other essential purposes.

Schools and creches will remain open, as will outdoor playgrounds and parks.

'Wet' pubs will stay shut in Dublin, but will remain open for takeaway services and outdoor dining to a maximum of 15 people.

Funerals are limited to 25 mourners and weddings with a limit of 25 guests for ceremony and reception can go ahead.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has been notified of a further 514 additional cases of Covid-19 and no new deaths.

The total number of confirmed cases in Ireland now stands at 38,549 while the death toll remains at 1,810.

Overall, 134 cases are in Dublin, 53 in Cork, 49 in Limerick, 34 in Donegal, 32 in Meath and the remaining 216 cases are spread across 20 counties.

Seventy-eight cases have been identified as community transmission and 30 pc are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case.

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