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Gardaí to be given extra powers in COVID-19 fight

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Extra powers are to be afforded to Gardaí who as of midnight will be able to redirect people home when they are breaking public health regulations.

Under current guidelines, only those deemed to be classed as ‘essential workers’ are allowed to go further than 2km from their own home.

Coastal locations across the country including holiday spots in West and North Clare observed extra visitors in recent days with an expected Easter surge in people flocking to mobile homes and caravans prompting the decision.

Gardaí will now be able to arrest and detain anyone found to breach the restrictions. This includes those found exercising beyond 2km from their homes or those travelling for non-essential reasons. Convictions will result in a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a fine of €2,500.

Any individual deemed to be at risk of spreading the virus and who refuses to self-isolate can also be detained. Those refusing to comply with such orders face up to three months in prison.

Lahinch hotelier, Michael Vaughan had shared his concerns prior to the development. “You seriously wonder how we can beat the coronavirus when anyone with a holiday home decides it’s ok to decamp to it in the past few days and possibly bring trouble to small villages and towns”.

An eighty three year old woman had phoned Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP) on Monday evening expressing her fear of the extra visitors in North-West Clare. “I’d an 83 year old ring me from Lahinch yesterday really worried because of all the Dublin reg cars that were appearing in her usually quiet, empty estate. Now is the time to think of others like the 83 year old and stay away from your holiday homes.

“We will get through this and the less movement the sooner we get through it and then you can move into your holiday home permanently if you like. It will be safe to do so, just please not now. I can still here the anxiety in her voice down the phone. Think of her and please stay home. We’ve been told stay home. If you’ve a second home please do not go to it this Easter. We’ve to stay in our primary home only to stop spread of virus”.

Kilkee based Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) on Tuesday described the lack of powers at the disposal of Gardaí in enforcing health guidelines “as useful as a chocolate teapot”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, Minister for Health, Simon Harris (FG) confirmed he would be signing an order on Tuesday night that would give Gardaí extra powers to redirect people to their homes when they are breaking public health guidelines.

His decision followed a meeting with the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan (FG) and Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris.

From midnight, a nationwide policing operation will be launched by Gardaí discouraging people from leaving their homes over the Easter period.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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