An Taoiseach announces further restrictions which will be in place until at least April 19

'Our greatest generation was not in the past and better times are yet to come'

Jessica Thompson

Reporter:

Jessica Thompson

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jessica.thompson@longfordleader.ie

abortion repeal the eight leo varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Following a cabinet meeting this morning, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced a number of new restrictions and new lockdown measures that will be in place until April 19.

"These are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented crisis," he explained this afternoon.

Commending healthcare workers, emergency services and anyone who has been lending a hand in this crisis, he said, "You're rising to this challenge and the nation is grateful."

"I want to thank the people of Ireland for listening to the advice. It's too early to know for sure, but we do believe it's making a difference. However, we need to flatten the curve," he said.

"I'm asking you to stay at home if at all possible. Only leave home to go to work if you can't work from home and your attendance is essential."

People are asked to only go out if they need to go to the shops, pharmacy, or for exercise. Social gatherings outdoors should be limited to no more than four people unless they are from the same household.

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"We're in this for the long haul and this could go on for weeks. Perhaps even months," Mr Varadkar explained, and proceeded to announce a series of restrictions which will come into effect from midnight tonight:

  • All theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure cebtres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to close
  • Hotels are to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons
  • All non-essential retail outlets to close to public and other retail outlets are to implement social distancing
  • All cafes and restaurant should limit supply to takeaways and deliveries only and are to implement social distancing
  • All sporting events to be cancelled, including those behind closed doors
  • All playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks are to close
  • All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate social distancing
  • Amount of money available on cashless card transactions will be significantly raised
  • All organised social indoor or outdoor events of any size are not to take place
  • Social distancing, in as far as is practicable, is to be ensured between clients/patients in confined settings such as long-term care facilities, psychiatric institutions, homeless shelters and prisons
  • Measures applicable to public transport include cleaning schedules to be improved; people should not use public transport unless necessary; transport companies are to apply social distancing measures and limit the numbers permitted on public transport at any one time
  • Gardaí are to increase interventions where venues/outlets are not in compliance with, or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended social distancing measures
  • All household contacts of a suspected case should restrict movements until the test is reported negative or for 14 days - whichever is shorter
  • Individuals should work from home unless workplace attendance is essential
  • Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be no more than four persons, unless all are from the same household
  • All non-essential indoor visits to other person's homes should be avoided
  • All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided
  • All scheduled cruise ship travel to cease

There will be an increased presence of park rangers and gardaí in parks and public places, Mr Varadkar explained.

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"Since independence, we've always had policing by consent rather than coersion and I don't intend to change that now. New powers afforded to gardaí will be used sparingly and only when necessary," he said.

The impact of Covid-19 on the economy and employment has been sudden and will be enormous, he said, adding that solidarity, unity and a sense of community will be important at this time.

The unemployment payment has been increased from €203 to €350 for those who have lost their jobs because of the virus, with the first payment on Friday.

Illness benefit will also increase to €350 per week.

To encourage employers and companies to keep staff, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced to co-fund 70% of salaries up to a maximum of €30,000 per year.

"The cost of all of this will be great - many billions of euros in the coming months. But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly because it's the right thing to do and we owe it to our fellow citizens," said Mr Varadkar.

Self-employed people will also be covered. I know how worried they are at the moment and how vulnerable they feel. The government will do everything they can to help sustain those people.

The Cabinet this morning approved emergency measures to freeze rents, prevent evictions, make it easier for healthcare professionals to re-register and return to work and allow former members to return at rank they left, under an approved framework agreement with private hospitals, which will operate as public hospitals for duration of the emergency.

This will add an additional 2,000 beds nine laboratories and thousands of staff to the emergency on a not for profit basis.

Mr Varadkar asked the people of Ireland to follow public health advice and to wash hands regularly, observe proper cough and sneeze etiquette, not to touch your face, maintain physical distancing, and stay home if you feel unwell.

"We cannot yet stop this virus but working together we can slow it in its tracks and push it back," he said.

"These are extraordinarily difficult times for everyone, but no matter what happens, we'll always put your life and your health ahead of other concerns.

"All of our resources being deployed in this great national effort and I know Irish people will continue to face this head on.

"Four years ago we commemorated the 1916 rising and celebrated the men and women who won our freedom and independence," he continued.

"I never believed we'd be called upon to match their courage or example but today we are.

"Working together as a country, we'll come through this emergency. We will be tested but we will succeed. Our greatest generation was not in the past and better times are yet to come."

Read also: Two more deaths and 219 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Ireland this evening