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People who break Covid-19 travel restrictions could face fines, Taoiseach says

Micheal Martin said the Government is considering implementing fines for those who do not adhere to public health guidance.

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Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

The Government is considering the introduction of fines to deter people from breaking Covid-19 travel restrictions, the Taoiseach has confirmed.

Micheal Martin said the Oversight Committee met on Wednesday morning “with a view to stronger enforcement around level three restrictions”.

He told the Dail: “We’re looking at the whole area of fines in terms of traffic and so on like that.”

The Taoiseach added that the Irish Government was “particularly concerned” about the rise in Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland is now a significantly challenging situation for the North in terms of the very, very high numbers, but clearly the overspill into the Republic and the consequences that could be there, and so we have to deal with that as well,” he said.

Mr Martin made the comments in the Dail on Wednesday as he confirmed the Irish Government was looking into introducing fines to enforce stricter Covid-19 public health restrictions.

His comments came as thousands of people were caught in long tailbacks on the roads.

The Garda set up 132 checkpoints on the country’s main roads to enforce the introduction of level three Covid-19 measures across the country.

It is part of Operation Fanacht, aimed at encouraging the public to adhere to health guidelines.

The entire country moved to level three restrictions under the Government’s five-tier response plan from midnight on Tuesday.

People have been asked to avoid all unnecessary journeys outside their own county.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is a “tough day” for many people and businesses nationwide but the only way to return to lighter restrictions is to follow the public health guidance.

He tweeted: “Ireland is now at Level 3. I know that this is a tough day for many people and businesses nationwide.

“The only way we can return to Level 2, or get to Level 1, is if everyone follows the public health guidance. Please keep that in mind when making decisions in the coming days.”

The move to level three came after the Government decided to disregard public health advice to introduce a new lockdown in the battle against Covid-19.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had advised the Government to move to level five to curb the spread of the virus, fearing level three will not be sufficient.

Mr Martin defended his decision, saying it would have been an enormous shock to people and to jobs.

He told the Dail on Wednesday he had met chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Wednesday morning and they had had a “good discussion”.

Mr Martin paid tribute to Dr Holohan’s “commitment to the country” and his selflessness in coming back to help the country through the pandemic.

Under level three restrictions, people are asked to remain in their own county except for work, education and essential purposes.

Indoor gatherings are banned, but groups of to up to 15 people are allowed to meet outside.

Weddings and funerals are limited to 25 people.

Indoor dining has been banned, and bars, cafes and restaurants are only allowed to serve a maximum of 15 people outdoors.

Shops can remain open with protective measures in place, but museums and other indoor cultural venues cannot open.

Only six visitors from one other household are allowed to gather in homes.

The restrictions will remain in place for three weeks.

The Garda has said it will continue to operate checkpoints on the roads every day during that time to deter people from breaking the measures.

The Freight Transport Association of Ireland criticised the checkpoints, saying more planning should have gone into preparing for the checks as professional drivers are “caught in unnecessary tailbacks impacting essential delivery services”.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said on Tuesday that the force’s priority is to keep people safe, and warned those travelling on the roads to expect delays.

“An Garda Siochana is encouraging people not to travel out of their county unless it is for essential purposes,” he said.

He added that he understands the difficulties the restrictions will create for people but everybody must adhere to them for them to work.

A further 432 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Tuesday.

There was one more coronavirus-linked death, taking the toll to 1,811.

Online Editors