Closures of schools, colleges and childcare facilities are to be extended until April 19th, the government say, as a number of new measures are to be implemented from midnight tonight as the country battles against the outbreak of Covid-19.
Among the measures announced include a rise in the Covid Unemployment payment to €350 per week – with the first payment to be made on Friday – an increased Gardai presence on the streets nationwide to ensure premises and individuals are adhering to physical distancing guidelines.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the extension of closures during a press conference at Government buildings on Tuesday afternoon. Closures of schools, colleges and creches were initially planned to end on April 3 but this was not considered to be a viable target for the reopening of facilities and resumption of normal life as detected cases of Covid-19 increase day on day.
Varadkar did not go as far to describe today’s measures as constituting a “lockdown.” “I would not use the term lockdown,” Varadkar said. “I have come to learn over the last week or so that lockdown means a lot of different things to a lot different people.”
On Monday, two new cases of Covid-19 brought the total number of positive cases of the virus in Louth to 13. Nationwide, the tally broke the 1,000 mark, hitting 1,025 as of 1pm yesterday. Two males in the east of the country died after being diagnosed with the virus bringing the total number of deaths to six.
The National Public Health Emergency Team made a number of recommendations to the government, which have been implemented. All theatres, clubs, gyms hairdressers, bettting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to close. Across county Louth and nationwide, many of the above had already closed their doors.
All hotels are to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons; all non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement social distancing; all cafes and restaurants are to limit supply to take-away food or delivery and implement social distancing measures in respect of queuing.
All sporting events – including those played behind closed doors – are to be cancelled. While most sporting activity was cancelled by bodies such as the FAI, GAA and Athletics Ireland, some events such as Horse Racing meets, including non-public races at Dundalk Stadium have continued over the last week.
All playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks are to close while the government say that the amount of money available on cashless card transactions will ‘significantly rise’.
In terms of physical distancing, Gardaí are to increase interventions where venues/outlets are not in compliance with appropriate measures and where groups of people are not adhering to recommended social distancing measures;
Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be no more than four persons, unless all are from the same household, while all non-essential indoor visits to other persons’ homes should be avoided. The government say that all crowded places, including public amenities, should also be avoided.
Recommendations were also made that while public transport is still available and running, cleaning schedules on public transport are to be improved and people should not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary.
Transport companies have been told to apply social distancing measures and limit the numbers permitted on public transport at any one time.
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Speaking at the press conference, the Taoiseach said, “You should only leave home to go to work if you can’t work from home and your attendance is essential. You should only go to the shops for essential supplies, out for medical or dental appointments, to care for others or to take physical exercise.
“Non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided. Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than 4, unless you are all from same household. We are in this for long haul.
“This could go on for weeks or months and we need to maintain our humanity, we need to see our families and loved ones and look after our mental and physical health. And we can do it if we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres or more.”