Coronavirus: Nationwide move to Level 4 plus Level 5 elements expected

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Updated: 9pm

A nationwide move to Level 4 restrictions with additional elements of Level 5 is expected to be announced Monday following Government deliberation over the weekend.

It is understood that most who attended Saturday's meetings in Government Buildings agreed that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet)’s recommendation to move to Level 5 for a six week period will not be accepted, according to the Irish Examiner.

A Government source said it is likely the Cabinet will settle on the introduction of Level 4 restrictions across the country with some additions, with the closure of outdoor dining and a travel limit under consideration.

It is understood that Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath are in favour of not going beyond Level 4, while Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is in favour of a move to the strictest of measures.

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"The Taoiseach is keen to step up restrictions but has not specially said whether we should go to Level 4 or 5," one senior source said.

It comes as 1,283 new cases of Covid-19 were announced this evening, while another three people have died with the virus.

'Decisive' action

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said the Government will act to bring in new restrictions on Monday, with the Cabinet meeting to finalise their response to a dramatic increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and rising hospital admissions.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Mr Harris said: "The Government will act tomorrow, the action will be decisive and the action will be right across the country, it will be nationwide.

"It's clear now that the virus is at such a level in all our communities that a county-by-county approach will not be sufficient, so tomorrow we will have to bring in more restrictions".

Mr Harris said that Level 3 restrictions, which are in place across the country, have "not worked in terms of getting the virus to where it needs to get to".

He said the Government needed to balance restrictions “with our honest view on what people can bear or sustain”.

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His comments come after political leaders received a briefing from health chiefs on Saturday over the surge in cases.

Level 5 – the highest stage – would see people being asked to stay within 5km of their home, as well as bars and restaurants offering only takeaway service.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan – leaders of the coalition parties – met at Government Buildings in Dublin on Saturday.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and epidemiologist Prof Philip Nolan briefed those present.

Discussions ended on Saturday evening.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

In a statement issued by the Government, it was confirmed that the Cabinet would meet on Monday.

The Government said political leaders and ministers received a briefing on the latest data relating to Covid-19, including an analysis of the virus in each region, hospital capacity and an update on the test and trace system.

Presentations were also given on the economic, employment and society wide implications of moving to more severe restrictions.

Other significant issues were also discussed including the mental health and domestic violence.

“Fundamental to the discussions was the overarching aim of protecting lives and livelihoods,” the statement said.

The health team briefed ministers that children were safer in schools, transmission rates are low, and that the continued opening of schools is very important to the development and wellbeing of children and young people.

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Speaking as he left the meeting, Mr Ryan described the issues as “complex”.

“Today was a long series of meetings, but it’s complex, there are so many different variables, health, our people and all the other things that will be affected one way or the other in how we respond to this,” he said.

“We’ll come back again early next week, government will look at matters further and in the meantime do a lot of further work.

He added: “Obviously we share the concerns [of Dr Tony Holohan] looking at the numbers increase, incidents of the virus. It’s clearly something of real concern across Europe, across the world and here too.

“We listened intently but government has to balance up a whole range of variables, yes we have to look at the impacts of the virus, but also the impacts in so many different ways on society and how we respond to it.”

Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald said the Government “must do whatever necessary to protect lives and health”.

“They must also ensure financial/income protection,” she tweeted. “Jobs, livelihoods and lives in the balance. No direction, comment or reassurance from government. Not good enough.”

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On Friday, Mr Martin described the situation as “very serious”.

“We will need further action in relation to this,” he said.

It comes after soaring numbers of Covid-19 cases across the country in recent weeks and an upsurge of hospital admissions.

Currently counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland faces four weeks of tougher restrictions aimed at halting the rapid increase in cases.

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