‘Stay at home.’
That’s the latest advice on limiting the spread of coronavirus, as a series of strict new measures are introduced following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
At a briefing from outside Government buildings in Dublin this afternoon, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the public is asked to work from home where possible and only leave the house for groceries and limited exercise.
The public is also advised to avoid indoor visits to friends and family and gathering in groups of more than four people until Sunday, April 19th, 2020.
Park rangers will be introduced to ensure social distancing is observed in public parks to encourage people to disperse and move on.
All non-essential services have been asked to close, including most retail outlets and hair salons, most of which have shut their doors temporarily already. Cafe and restaurants will be permitted to offer takeaway options only. All playgrounds and caravan sites will be closed.
“These are extraordinarily difficult times.” the Taoiseach said.
“I know the Irish people will face this head-on and make the changes we need.”
Pandemic payment supports for workers
The Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment will be increased to €350, a 50% boost to the original figure of €203 per week for six weeks. The emergency payment will also apply to the self-employed in cases where a worker has been left without an income due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
An emergency wage subsidy scheme has also been approved by the Cabinet to keep people in work. The plan will see the Government pay 70% of an employee’s salary (not exceeding €410 per week net) for at least 12 weeks, after which the situation will be reviewed. Employers can top up their employees’ salary if they wish.
The Cabinet has also approved an Emergency Measures Bill to freeze rents and stop evictions as the country battles to contain the outbreak.
Today our Public Health Emergency Team has made important recommendations in our efforts to slow the spread of #coronavirus. Thank you for all you are doing. Together, we must now do more. Together, we will save lives #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/zaer7Hw99O
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 24, 2020
A further 219 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland last night, bringing the total number across the Republic of Ireland to 1,125. There were two more deaths from the disease, bringing the total number of fatalities to six.
In Cork, 104 cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed, 14% of the national total. As it stands, patients aged between 25-44 are the largest group affected but health experts have highlighted that 80% of people with Covid-19 experience mild to moderate illness.
The Department of Health has announced it will hold a press briefing tonight at 8.30pm.
Despite some social media reports, traffic approaching @PaircUiCha0imh for #Covid19 testing is fine. Drive safely and arrive at your appointment time. #SocialDistancing #WashYourHands pic.twitter.com/yrSEjtFnXd
— An Garda Síochána (@GardaTraffic) March 24, 2020
The Taoiseach confirmed that no Irish schools will be reopened before April 19th at minimum.
Speaking to Galway Bay FM this morning, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said: “Obviously we are going to be influenced and directed by the health experts,” he said.
“We don’t know where we are going to be in terms of the peak of this virus.
“I think we owe it to those young people who are studying and putting in the effort to see this through to try to have these exams this year. When I say this year, I mean the dates that are defined for this year. That’s what we are working towards.”
Despite the advice, people continue to gather
Last night, customers joined long queues to get a final McDonald’s meal before the chain closed all of its restaurants in Ireland and the UK in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Lord Mayor of Cork, John Sheehan, who is a GP, has joined forces with the mayors Dublin and Galway to call for a full lockdown to reduce the number of people ever Covid-19 patient comes into contact with while they await a test.
More than 40,000 people are currently waiting to be tested for Covid-19 in Ireland.
What we have to do now, to protect everyone, is connect socially, disconnect physically. It’s vital that we keep #COVID19 at a distance. Thanks to our generous colleagues in @failte_ireland for creating this campaign on behalf of @HSELive and @roinnslainte #ItsInOurHands pic.twitter.com/P5XvPO4O6b
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) March 24, 2020
In Longford, Gardaí were forced to disperse more than 80 young people who had gathered at a house in the town for a birthday party on Saturday night. This week will see Gardaí briefed on new enforcement powers to handle similar cases as the country battles the spread of coronavirus.
Britain in lockdown
The UK is in lockdown and yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay at home:
“People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes,” he said, listing shopping for basic necessities, travelling to work if it is necessary, doing one form of exercise a day and providing medical services as the only reasons for leaving the house.
Police have been given powers to break up gatherings of more than two people and anyone flouting the law will be fined.