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Gardai get checklist of essential jobs

Patrols mobilised to crackdown on gatherings

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The government last weekned published list of "essential" workers after a day of confusion over who is exempt from unprecedented restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus crisis.

It came as Gardai have mounted a massive operation to ensure the public complies with the strict limits on everyday life that have come into force in a bid to slow the spread of the disease.

And in another development last night, Transport Minister Shane Ross confirmed that the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS), the National Car Testing (NCT) service are suspended until further notice.

There was mass uncertainly over which workers would be allowed travel to their work places amid the otherwise strict instructions to work from home. The Construction Industry Federation told its members that they shouldn't go to work in the absence of clear instructions from the Government which did not come until yesterday evening.

It was announced that essential workers include health, public health and social care workers; public and civil service personnel such as gardai; those involved in production of foods and medicine; some financial services employees; and journalists.

Utilities personnel such as ESB, Bord Gais and Irish Water staff; and transport workers like hauliers and bus/train drivers are also included as are construction workers building essential medical facilities.

Senior government official Liz Canavan stressed that: "All employees should work from home if at all possible."

Employers were told to refer to the government's guidance to decide if their organisation is providing and essential service. It is not necessary for them to seek official authorisation but they must inform staff who are permitted to attend the workplace.

Those workers must carry work ID of have a letter from their employer and another form of identification.

More than 2,500 gardai have been deployed in patrols and at checkpoints across the country in what Commissioner Drew Harris described as one of the biggest ever mobilisations of the force.

It comes after the Government announced extraordinary new restrictions on people's movement due to remain in force until April 12.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the restrictions on movement are not sustainable for a long period and he hoped they could be relaxed after two weeks. "Will we be in a position on April 12 where life in Ireland will return to normal? Absolutely not and let's be honest with each other... these are measures that we're going to need to continue to work on," he told RTE Radio.

Mr Harris said of the restrictions that, when the crisis is over, "we want to be able to say that the measures we all took together were really tough but helped keep people alive and well".

Trips of more than 2km from people's homes are allowed only to buy food and medication, provide vital care for vulnerable family members, or for essential workers to go to work.

People aged over 70 and people with medical conditions that are vulnerable have been told to 'cocoon' and not leave their homes.

Mr Harris last night said: "My message to older people who we're asking to cocoon is we will not leave you alone."

Brief exercise outside is allowed within 2km of a person's home. Mr Harris said he wouldn't rule in or rule out further restrictions of the kind seen in countries like Italy, including outdoor exercise bans and further distance limits.

Gardai have been stopping people around the country this weekend to check where they are going, in part to avoid scenes like the previous weekend which saw large groups of people in parks and at beaches.

Commissioner Drew Harris urged people to not panic.

"We're concentrating on having a good strong presence and we want to make sure also that there's no panic-buying and no panic rush to the supermarkets."

Gardai are still waiting for enforcement powers to allow them to arrest those in breach of the new health rules.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar took to social media in a bid to discourage panic-buying, saying there is "no need to do all shopping or stockpile this morning. Food stores and takeaways staying open in the emergency".

Hardware and electrical stores, gardening centres, shops that sell IT/office equipment, opticians and car repair garages must close under the new lockdown rules - but can offer home delivery or emergency call-out services.

Sunday Independent