*A depleted Ennis on St Patrick’s Day 2020. Photograph: John Mangan
An extension to Level 5 lockdown until March 5th has been agreed by the Cabinet’s sub-committee on COVID-19.
Current restrictions were to last until January 31st but this has been lengthened in light of the increased amount of COVID-19 cases at the beginning of the month which has overwhelmed the healthcare system in Ireland.
A phased return of schools beginning with special education students and those sitting the Leaving Certificate is to be implemented.
Mandatory quarantine will be in place for persons travelling into the country without a negative PCR test plus passengers from areas such as South Africa and Brazil that are deemed high risk. Private security firms will police the quarantine areas while individuals will have to pay for their own stay in quarantine.
After a period of five days, travellers will have to pay for a COVID-19 test, they will be granted permission to leave after five days if they receive a negative test. Individuals that test positive will have to remain in quarantine at their own cost for a period of two weeks, at least.
Anyone who flies into the country is advised to self-isolate for fourteen days, unless they receive negative PCR test five days after their arrival into the country. Persons landing from green and orange regions do not have to restrict their movements if they present their PCR results on arrival. A ban on holiday and short-term visas was also agreed.
Speaking on Saturday, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) acknowledged public health advice surrounding self-isolating for people arriving into the country was not adhered to over the Christmas period.
Stricter rules for those told to restrict their movements or self isolate are also being introduced, whereby breaches may be punishable by fines and imprisonment. Breaches of these regulations will result in a fine of up to €2,500 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
Similarly, tougher sanctions to clamp down on persons leaving their 5km radius were discussed to limit the movements of the public.
Among the personnel attending the sub-committee meeting were the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (FG), Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan (GP), members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and other senior ministers.