Back to lockdown
Ireland faces strict new lockdown measures to combat the escalating Covid-19 crisis.
Yesterday, after the level of hospitalisations in Ireland topped the highest level of the first wave of the pandemic, the Cabinet met to discuss the new measures.
In positive news, the European Medicines Agency has approved the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for use. This is the second approved vaccine and Ireland has a repurchase agreement for 880,000 doses.
The Cabinet considered a range of tighter public health restrictions, set to be the strictest since the first lockdown in March last year.
The new measures will include much stricter rules for travellers flying into Ireland, the closure of non-essential construction and only keeping open schools for children with special needs this month, with possible exceptions for Leaving Cert students.
All ECCE/preschools will close with crèches only open for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.
Click and collect services by non-essential retailers will not be allowed. Instead it will be delivery only.
Most construction is set to close, it is understood, except for social housing and essential public works.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “The situation now, to my mind, is as serious as it’s been since the start of this. We’ve got more evidence last night, it’s early evidence but more evidence as to the prevalence and the rapid spread of this UK variant.
“This UK variant is unlike anything we have dealt with in this country so far. We know it’s here, the only question is to what level it’s here. It’s far more contagious than anything we have dealt with so far. Everything is focussed on one message which is stay at home.”
The future of the Leaving Cert was also discussed with Minister for Education Norma Foley proposing to Cabinet that these students return to the classroom for three days per week from next Monday. It was confirmed on Wednesday that GCSE, AS and A-level schools examinations have been cancelled in Northern Ireland.
Solidarity TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry yesterday called on the Leaving Cert to be scrapped this year. He said that this year's Leaving Cert students will be the first cohort of students to face major disruption of their classroom studies in both years of their final exams cycle.
He said that the increased incidence of Covid among young people is a new factor that increases the potential for disruption even in the aftermath of the closures currently being contemplated.
The strict new measures aim to reduce the movement of people in Ireland to slow the spread of the virus.
The measures also aim to curb the arrival of variants of the virus from the UK and South Africa. On Tuesday it was proposed that arrivals to Ireland must have a negative Covid-19 test within the previous 72 hours. Initially this will be for travellers from the UK and South Africa and will begin from Saturday. People will still have to self-isolate for 14 days, however.
In a statement Cork Airport said: “The Government has extended the ban on arriving passenger flights from Great Britain until midnight on Friday 8 January. All passengers booked on flights who were due to travel from Heathrow Airport to Cork Airport during this period should contact their airline for more information.”