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new rules Taoiseach confirms full level 5 restrictions with schools closed till January 11 and household visits banned

  • A ban on all household visits is in place from midnight

  • 10 people will be able to attend funerals and six can attend weddings from January 3

  • Non-essential retail and gyms to close from tomorrow

  • Schools closed till January 11


Taoiseach Micheál Martin Photo: Julien Behal Photography

Taoiseach Micheál Martin Photo: Julien Behal Photography

Taoiseach Micheál Martin Photo: Julien Behal Photography

Follow our live updates ahead of the Taoiseach's announcement on new Level 5 restrictions.

19:34 Taoiseach Micheal Martin says the Covid crisis has been deeply traumatic for the country.

He says the pandemic had taken a toll on the economy and on mental health and Ireland would not know the true cost for some time.

"We will rebuild society," he said. "We will come to terms with this crisis and make sense of the trauma we've all been through in due course.

"We will do all these things and start them in the coming year because the vaccine exists but right now we must stay at home and eliminate contacts to make sure that as many of our people as possible are still with us to enjoy the better, brighter days, that are up ahead."

19:17 Leo Varadkar says the vaccination programme will make difference by the summer

The Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government expected a mass vaccination in the next three months but "the next three months will be difficult."

"I am optimistic but I am hopeful."

Minister Martin said: "Looking onto the Summer I expect we will have a significant number of people vaccinated."

Within weeks he expected 50,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

But he added: "We need to protect our loved ones, our healthcare workers by putting as much pressure as possible on the virus over the next two months in particular."

18:46 Taoiseach stresses vaccination will make 'key difference'

Speaking this evening, Minister Martin said: "We are all weary, from the bottom of our hearts, of this disease and the impact it has had on our lives.

"The next month, as we face into these strictest controls in the depth of winter, is going to be very tough for everyone.

"But there is another key difference between then and now.

"After a year of the most extraordinary effort by the most talented scientific minds on earth, we have safe and effective vaccines.

"We have the most technologically advanced factories in history working around the clock producing this life saving intervention, and we have a global supply chain distributing it around the world."

18:44 People asked to stay at home except for essential work and travel or taking exercise within 5km of their homes

The Taoiseach said: "You should stay at home, except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, or to take exercise within 5km of home."

18:35 Weddings held after January 2 will only have six guests

Weddings planned up to and including January 2 can have a maximum of 25 guests. Weddings from 3rd January may proceed, but with a maximum of 6 guests.

Funerals may have up to 10 mourners.

18:27 Non-essential retail and gyms to close from tomorrow

All retail will be closed tomorrow, along with gyms.

"We should stay home for work, education and take exercise at home. All non essential retail and gyms close tomorrow," Mr Martin said.

"All research is schools are safe, the new restrictions will be in place for 10 days (for schools.)" he added.

18:20 7,000 cases in the last seven days

"In the week before Christmas we received 5pc of tests, yesterday we had 18pc," Minister Martin said.

"In the last seven days there has been 7000 cases - that's a 61pc increase on the previous week.

"This is different to the second wave, we are seeing all all ages, from 19 to 24and a worrying increase in those 65 and over.

"This time it's different..."

Minister Martin said 454 Covid-infected patients were in hospital this morning.

"That's doubled in a week," he added.

And the reproduction number which shows just how fast the disease is spreading has risen from 1.6 to 1.8.

"The situation is extremely serious, the numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days," he added.

18:18 Household visits banned from midnight and schools closed until January 11

From midnight all household visits will be banned, aside from those caring for children, the elderly or in social bubbles and schools will be closed until January 11.

Taoiseach Michael Martin said: “We must protect the lives of those we love, the actions we are taking are saving lives… right now this is what we must do. We must make sure as many of our people as possible are with us to enjoy the brighter days ahead.”

He added: "From this evening no visitors are permitted in private homes or gardens, unless they are providing care to children, the elderly or as part of a support bubble."

17:30: 13 further deaths and 1,718 new cases announced

There has been a further 13 Covid-19 related deaths while 1,718 new cases of the virus confirmed by the Department of Health this evening.

This brings the death toll to 2,226 while the total number of confirmed cases in Ireland now stands at 90,157.

A total of 853 are men while 863 are women.

16:33 Ministers discuss extension of school holidays in Cabinet meeting

Ministers are discussing extending the school holidays by a few days amid tough new measures to stem the third wave of coronavirus.

Household visits are expected to be banned from midnight as the Government imposes a full national lockdown until the end of January.

Non-essential retail will have one more day of trading before shops will be asked to close from New Year’s Day under plans being discussed by Cabinet.

Gyms and leisure centres are also to be asked to close under the new restrictions.

16:08: Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said the focus has to be on “doing everything that is necessary to suppress this virus.”

"We need to keep people safe, we need to keep people alive and we need to keep our hospital system and our healthcare system open," he said on his way into Cabinet.

“While we get vaccinating initially the nursing homes, people in the nursing homes and the residents and critically our frontline healthcare workers as well.

“We need to keep people safe, we need to keep people alive and we need to keep our hospital system and our healthcare system open.

“So obviously very serious decisions have to be looked at today.”

The measures were announced following an emergency Cabinet meeting today after concern was raised over the surge in Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions in recent weeks.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said that an announcement will be made as soon as the Cabinet meeting concludes this afternoon.

“We are in tumultuous times and we have to respond to the situation as we see it,” he said.

“The government will convey its decision immediately."

He added: "We fully appreciate the impact that any of the decisions we have made to date and any future decisions have on the day-to-day lives of people.

"We are deeply conscious of that, but the first responsibility of any Government is to protect its people, and we will always be motivated solely by the desire to protect public health and save lives."

"I think irrespective of the decision the Government will make today, we are at Level 5.

"And the first principle of Level 5 is that people should stay at home. Only in certain exceptions should people be leaving home to go about essential business, and I think perhaps that is a rule that isn't getting the traction it should.

"We all have to reflect on our movements and cut down on our social interaction."

Mr McGrath warned that the situation with the virus is "deteriorating quite quickly".

He said the “last part of the journey” towards vaccination “can be the most difficult and treacherous”.

"We have a difficult road ahead but we know where we're going and we're well on that road now,” he said.

Meanwhile, full PCR testing of all arriving passengers is likely to be established at ports and airports - even though the land border with the North remains open.

"People have not been following the rules, and the figures are through the roof," said a Government source last night.

A record 1,546 were confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday, the Department of Health said. This brings the total number of cases in the Republic so far to 88,439.

There were also a further nine deaths, bringing the total number to 2,213.

Last night, the Department of Public Health urged people in one of the country's worst-hit regions to "avoid large social gatherings of any kind for New Year's celebrations".

There have been 800 positive coronavirus cases in Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary combined over the past two weeks, the Department of Health Mid West said.

"We know that the virus has been widely circulating for nearly four weeks in the community, and spreading through these extended social gatherings in the lead up to Christmas.

"However, while we continue to closely monitor the possible impact of Christmas celebrations, we fear that large household gatherings in recent days may have added an extra layer to what is already a complex situation locally," said Dr Mai Mannix, Director of Public Health Mid-West.

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