There can be “no guarantee” the localised lockdowns in the counties would be ended in two weeks, the acting Chief Medical Officer admitted
People living in Kildare, Offaly and Laois will be put under a partial lockdown for the next two weeks.
There will be garda checkpoints monitoring citizens movement around Kildare, Offaly and Laois, to prevent people leaving the locked down counties.
Starting from midnight, those living in the three counties will have to restrict their movements and people elsewhere in the country will be banned from travelling to the counties.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly admitted that there will be checkpoints throughout the counties to protect the population from the virus.
“As always, ultimately there is an enforcement point to it.
"I am very aware this will be a sacrifice. I and the country are with you, this is tough, difficult.
"I wish it wasn't necessary to ask this of you but it is to protect your own communities, particularly those who are the most vulnerable..." said Minister Donnelly.
- Cafes, restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants will have to close from tomorrow unless they are doing takeaway service or have outdoor dining.
- Indoor gatherings are to be reduced to a maximum of six people from no more than three households and outdoor gatherings limited to a maximum of 15 people.
- Cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, bingo halls, casinos, betting shops and other indoor recreational and cultural outlets will also be closed. Gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios, sports clubs and similar venues should close.
- All sporting events have been banned but, non-contact outdoor sports and training may continue subject to maximum of 15 people. Training for professional athletes involved in contact sport can continue.
- Crèches can remain open and preparations for reopening schools can continue.
- People will be told to restrict their movement within the country other than travelling to work, to medical appointments or for vital family reason or for caring for an animal.
- The advice says there can should be no travel into the three counties, other than for exemptions relating to work, medical appointments, family or animal emergencies.
- People can travel through the counties but they cannot stop unless it is for an essential purpose.
- Outdoor amenities including playgrounds may remain open with appropriate social distancing advice.
- Retail shops may remain open but with strict adherence to public health guidance including the wearing of facemasks.
- Personal services such as hairdressers and barbers may remain open, subject to appropriate social distancing and public health measures.
- Prison, nursing homes and acute hospital visits should be suspended, except on compassionate grounds.
- Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.
- Places of worship may remain open for private prayer. Services should be delivered online or through other remote means.
- Funerals may take place with a maximum attendance of 25 persons.
- All other business, unless otherwise specified, may remain open, subject to appropriate social distancing and public health measures.
- Serial testing for all healthcare workers in nursing homes will recommence on 10th August.
When travelling to and from work, where it is not possible to work from home.
- For vital family reasons such as caring for children, elderly or vulnerable people - but excluding social visits.
- To attend medical appointments
- For farming purposes including the care of animals
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he felt for counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly, who are to be locked down from midnight but who have the support of Ireland behind them as the nation fights the virus.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn addressed a briefing after the announcement the three counties would be locked down for two weeks.
“This situation is really rapid, an awful lot can happen in 24 hours, nevermind two weeks,” Dr Glynn said.
“We hope to be in a much better place in two weeks but we can't guarantee it.”
Minister Donnelly admitted though the Government is doing its best to tackle Covid-19: “Mistakes could be made, they may be being made right now.
“We need to constantly improve… I’m open to what people are saying.
“The measures we are doing now are different to six months ago, as we are learning.”
Dr Glynn said throughout this week all the workers in the affected facilities were tested.
And that it is now “likely we’ll have significant numbers over the next few days.”
“Whatever is going to happen over the next week is already in train and there's very little any of us can do about that,” Dr Glynn added.
But it had been imperative to act rapidly to lockdown, to slow the spread, he added.
When asked would the lockdowns definitely be over in two weeks, Dr Glynn stated: “I can’t give a guarantee.
“But the sole purpose was to make the decision before community transmission.
“If we contain the virus in the clusters there’s a high likelihood we can come back out of it in two weeks.”
The HSE had thought the issue was “under control” but “for whatever reason, “we have seen this escalation over the past ten days,” Dr Glynn added.
The Taoiseach urged the public to live the words of John Hume in fighting Covid-19: “Solidarity is strength” as the three counties prepare to lockdown for two weeks.
The Taoiseach said 35 years ago John Hume had “campaigned under solidarity is strength.
“The spirit is perhaps no more important than ever today. We are all responding for each other. Each of us will protect all of us.”
Mr Martin made a direct appeal to the citizens of the three affected counties, where a surge in the virus has been witnessed - to restrict their movements and to avoid anyone not following public health advice.
In an impassioned address to the nation, Mr Martin added:
“Testing remains a key weapon in our armoury. Government has moved to ramp up testing.”
Any business that required testing to be carried out would receive it and any firms that needed to be would be shut down, he added - and not opened up until public health officials were satisfied they “no longer pose a threat.”
“We know we could go further (with restrictions) but we are conscious as we move forward through pandemic, our responses need to be more nuanced,” Mr Martin added.
“The vast majority will understand we are in this together and they will do as asked.”
Mr Martin said he understood the “impatience people are feeling,” at how culturally, socially and economically, the country had suffered during the pandemic.
“But we need to understand this virus is merciless and unrelenting," he added.
“I want to confirm the Government is doing everything possible. But we go can't do it alone, each and every one of us as citizens must continue to help limit the spread.”
Mr Martin urged everyone to social distance, get tested if they fell ill with Covid-19 symptoms and to wear masks.
“We now know how Covid-19 attacks by stealth,” he added.
“We have to be decisive…. The disease is not waiting, we must protect public health, everything else is secondary.”
“Do not travel to these counties unless for work or essential care for a relative and please pause and reflect on what else you and your family, your colleagues, can do to slow the spread of the disease.
“While the burden of this falls heaviest on the counties of Kildare, Offaly and Laois, the message needs to be heard across the country.”
It was vital to work to get children back to school, the Taoiseach added and this would be achieved by the public all taking measures to protect each other from the virus.
Meanwhile, people will be told not use public transport unless it is absolutely necessary and also asked not to share private vehicles with people from outside their homes.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “We have taken the approach we’ve taken as we and Nphet have looked at what’s happening round the world, we are taking a cautious approach.
“We had the most restricted Green List in Europe, the number of foreign cases is falling.
“We have to do everything as families, workers, employers to follow the basic guidelines to restrict transmission so it doesn't move and it doesn't get to people much more vulnerable to the disease.
“We are putting regulations together so it will be put on a statutory level but the success hasn’t been enforced, we have succeeded in solidarity we understand in Ireland how vicious and dangerous this disease is.
We have seen it in politics. The WHO said the solidarity at a community and political level had stood out in Ireland."
The stark impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health service dominates much of the 209-page briefing that was on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly's desk when he started his new job. But other issues like the Fair Deal scheme and warnings over capacity of services for people with disabilities are also flagged.
Mary Lou, fresh back from the Arás, closes the door of the office of the Taoiseach and sits down at the desk, the first Sinn Féin leader of Ireland since de Valera (Or possibly, technically, WT Cosgrave?).