new restrictions  | 

Social bubbles, eviction ban and 5km travel restriction under consideration for new Covid-19 rules

The Cabinet will tomorrow sign off on new restrictions aimed at stopping the escalating the spread of the virus after holding a crunch meeting with Nphet chief Tony Holohan and HSE boss Paul Reid on Saturday.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Health Minister arriving at the unveiling of the ‘Living with Covid’ plan in September

Philip Ryan

People will be permitted to expand their household bubble to include close family members, isolated people and those in need of care, under new Covid-19 restrictions being considered by the Government.

An eviction ban will also be introduced to coincide with any new measures restricting travel within counties to ensure people cannot be put out of their homes during a second lockdown.

The Cabinet will tomorrow sign off on new restrictions aimed at stopping the escalating the spread of the virus after holding a crunch meeting with Nphet chief Tony Holohan and HSE boss Paul Reid on Saturday.

The stricter measures will be a merger of Level Four and Level Five restrictions set out in the Government’s Living with Covid-19 strategy.

It is expected they will reject Nphet’s suggestion of a six week lockdown and instead go for between three and four weeks with a review at the end of the period.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan and Deputy CMO Dr. Ronan Glynn arriving at Government Buildings on Saturday to brief party leaders on Level 5 recommendations.

Schools along construction sites and manufacturing companies are expected to stay open as will other essential services and shops but the vast majority of other businesses will be asked to close their doors for the period of the new lockdown.

Pubs and restaurants will only be permitted to provide takeaway and delivery service.

Under plans being discussed today household visits will continue to be banned and people may be asked to remain within 5km of their home when the additional Covid rules are unveiled.

However, ministers are developing a so called ‘social bubble’ system which would ensure people are not left isolated.

The system will be based on the New Zealand model which allows people expand their household bubble to connect with close family, bring in carers or support isolated people.

The New Zealand government’s website says households must keep their “bubble exclusive and only include people where it will keep you and them safe and healthy”.

“If anyone within your bubble feels unwell, they legally must immediately self-isolate from everyone else within the bubble,” it adds.

Higher Education Minister told RTE’s The Week in Politics that he is in favour of introducing bubbles.

The Government are not expected to use the term ‘bubble’ but will introduce a similar system.

At present, household visits are only permitted on companionate grounds or for essential medical reasons.

The proposal going to Cabinet tomorrow is expected to recommend banning any travel within 5k of a home but this may be extend once discussed by ministers.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is planning to re-introduce a moratorium on evictions to coincide with restrictions on movement within counties.

Mr O’Brien is working with Attorney General Paul Gallagher to introduce a similar ban to the one announced during the first lockdown.

The minister is insisting on new legislation which would ensure people cannot be forced to leave their homes during a lockdown.

Mr O’Brien is hoping to put the ban into law which would see the eviction moratorium automatically come into force if more severe travel restrictions are introduced.

Government leaders and senior ministers held a four hour meeting yesterday with Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan, his deputy Ronan Glynn and HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid.

They discussed the various strands and impacts of a second lockdown ahead of another meeting due to take place tomorrow. This will be followed by a full Cabinet meeting.

On Saturday, ministers heard child welfare referrals had gone down during the first lockdown while domestic violence calls went up. They were also told the situation with intensive care hospital beds is concerning but not yet critical.

The number of people on hospital trolleys at present is not far off a normal October, they were told.

They also considered the impact of more severe coronavirus restrictions on businesses and employment.

Talks are on going this weekend between the Government and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) about encouraging more people to work from home in the coming weeks.

There are also plans underway to ensure the recently announced Covid-19 Restriction Support Scheme (CRSS), which is not yet up and running, can be backed dated if new restrictions are announced this week.

There are concerns within Government about become an “outlier” in Europe by imposing more severe restrictions than other EU states. “The last time we went into these type of measures lots of Europe was going into it but this time there is a risk we go into it and other don’t and we become an outliers,” a minister said.

“Even the markets will look at us differently then,” the minister added.

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