Government announces new restrictions

By William O’Connor

THE Taoiseach has announced a new set of measures, aiming to halt the spread of COVID-19 including the closure of all non-essential retail outlets.

“The Cabinet met to decide on the next steps that the government will take to respond to the Coronavirus Emergency. These are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency,” said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at this afternoon’s press conference.

Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced new restrictions

The following new actions are being taken:

  • all theatres, clubs, gyms/leisure centres, hairdressers, betting shops, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut;
  • all hotels 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 physical distancing;
  • all cafes and restaurants are to limit supply to take away food or delivery;
  • all sporting events are cancelled, including those behind closed doors;
  • all playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks will close;
  • all places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing;
  • all organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place.

Gardai will now increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with, or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended physical distancing.

All household contacts of a suspect case (i.e. a person who is awaiting a test or test result) should restrict movements until the test is reported negative or for 14 days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is shorter.

Meanwhile the Taoiseach also said individuals should work from home unless attendance at the workplace is absolutely 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 persons’ homes should be avoided.

All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided.

All scheduled cruise ship travel will cease.

There will be an increased presence of park rangers and Gardaí in parks and public places to ensure physical distancing is being observed.

In recognition of the fact that so many citizens have lost their jobs so suddenly, the government are raising the COVID Unemployment Payment to €350 a week.

This is approximately 75% of average earnings in the sectors most affected, and compares favourably to what is being done in other countries. The first payments will be made on Friday.

The COVID Illness Benefit will also increase to €350 per week and can be topped up by employers. This will be paid to people self-isolating.

In order to encourage employers and companies badly affected by the Emergency to keep staff on the payroll, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced to co-fund 70% of the cost of salaries up to a maximum of €38,000 a year. At a salary of €38,000 the subsidy will equate to €410 a week in take-home pay.

Finally, Cabinet this morning approved the ‘Emergency Measures in the Public Interest COVID Bill’.

This legislation, for the duration of the Emergency, will freeze rents; prevent evictions; and make it easier for health care professionals to re-register and return to work. It will also enable former members of our Defence Forces to rejoin at the rank they left.

The government also approved a framework agreement with the private hospitals. Private Hospitals will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act for the duration of the Emergency thus adding over two thousand beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to our health service.

Private and public patients will be treated equally and the private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not-for-profit basis.

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