‘All-island bubble isn’t politically possible as of yet’
Stricter sanctions for people breaking the 5km lockdown rule will be considered by Cabinet tomorrow, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has said.
Almost 1,000 fines were issued by gardaí to people who breached the non-essential travel regulations in the first 11 days since their introduction.
Regulations and sanctions around 5km travel will “strengthen” after Cabinet meets tomorrow to discuss restrictions. Mr Ryan believes this would bring non-essential travel in contravention of the rules “down to a trickle”.
Minister Ryan said there would be increased surveillance to reduce unnecessary travel but said certain workers from the UK, such as those working at power stations, were necessary and needed to travel across the Border.
The Government will look at introducing “much stricter sanctions in terms of the 5km route” that would also discourage more people from flying, according to the Green Party leader.
He said gardaí had put checkpoints near airports since last Friday in an attempt to cut out non-essential flying.
He warned that authorities needed to “significantly increase their surveillance" to reduce unnecessary travel.
There will be increased checks near the Border, Minister Ryan told Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One, but said the idea of restricting travel across the border, or creating “an all-island bubble isn’t politically possible as of yet.”
“If someone is on a road 5km south of the Border, and doesn’t have a valid reason as to why they are travelling; they will be subject to prosecution and a fine. The guards have those powers,” Minister Ryan said.
The Green Party leader said it was “a matter for the PSNI” whether similar checks would be in place on the other side of the Border.
Minister Ryan also confirmed that all arrivals without a negative PCR test, or arrivals from areas that are concerning due to variants such as South Africa and Brazil, would be subject to a mandatory quarantine.
It is anticipated this will be done in designated hotels.
Gardaí will receive powers to enforce this after cabinet meet on Tuesday, Mr Ryan confirmed.
Mr Ryan also said the Covid-19 sub-committee would look at strengthening checks on people who are quarantining in houses.
“We will introduce much stricter checks on this...and there will be no shortage of resources on this,” the minister said.
On the reopening of schools, Minister Ryan said the Leaving Cert students “must be the first key cohort” back after children attending special education schools.
“I think we should try to do a written Leaving Cert this year, even if it may have to be varied.”
The reopening of schools will also be discussed at cabinet tomorrow and Minister Ryan said government must work with unions toward a “graduated return” and lay out a plan for students to return to school in the spring.