“We have suppressed this virus in the past and we can do it again if we work together.”
That was the message from Chair of the HSE Area Crisis Management Team, Michael Fitzgerald ahead of the introduction of Level 5 restrictions in Cork and across the country today.
The restrictions, introduced to tackle the rise in new Covid-19 cases, mean that from today people can only exercise within 5km of their homes and non-essential retail and services are closed, as are gyms and leisure centres.
Amongst the other changes are that people cannot have visitors to their homes or gardens and religious services have moved online.
A significant volume of businesses in Cork closed their doors last night and do not expect to be able to re-open them for six weeks.
Managing director of Fitzgerald Menswear on St Patrick’s Street in the city centre, Eddie Mullins, said that it was bittersweet to be pulling down the shutter after “a show of solidarity” from customers on what was his last day trading for some time.
Mr Mullins said that the atmosphere in the city “was like Christmas week”.
“There were people out with lots of bags and supporting the city centre, and it’s really appreciated by retailers especially after the floods on Tuesday.”
He said the support and the can-do attitude from people meant a lot and said “if we have to go out, we’ll go out on a high note”.
Mr Mullins said that restaurants were also busy with people dining outdoors “for a bit of a last hurrah”.
He said that it was a sad day and an emotional day shutting up shop for the second time in seven months, something he said has been unheard of in the store’s 160 years of trading.
“It isn't ideal and we’re disappointed at the length of it all but it is for the greater good and it’s for the community,” he said.
Customers of one popular Cork salon were getting their hair done up until late last night before returning home under level 5 restrictions.
Joseph Byrne, who owns Joseph's Hair Salon in Glasheen, has been working around the clock to facilitate clients, many of whom will spend the next six weeks cocooning.
The entrepreneur gained the reputation of being Cork's kindest hairdresser during the last lockdown after delivering flowers and cards to the homes of cocooning clients.
Joseph also phoned his older clients regularly to ensure that loneliness was kept at bay throughout the pandemic.
Lillian Lehane from the Lough recalled the bouquet he delivered to her home during a lonely time last Summer.
"His flowers came exactly when I needed them," she said. "I was having a very tough day and they just arrived out of the blue."
Pauline Scanlon, who had her hair styled for the last time before lockdown yesterday, said she will miss the salon’s personal touch.
On the eve of the new restrictions, the HSE said that Covid-19 testing will be ramped up and additional staff will be provided to speed up test turnaround times in Cork in the weeks ahead.
It is also opening a new additional Covid-19 testing at a pop-up test site on the Douglas Road.
Chair of the HSE Area Crisis Management Team Michael Fitzgerald, said:
“We know that this re-introduction of restrictions will be difficult for the people of the region.
“However, we also know that taking action now is in everyone’s best interests.
The HSE area crisis management team for Cork and Kerry also moved to reassure the public that health services across the region will remain open, and said no one should delay seeking advice from any healthcare professional if it’s needed.
Anyone with an appointment should presume that appointment is going ahead unless they are told otherwise.
Acting Director of Public Health for the region, Dr Anne Sheehan, appealed to the public to isolate at home if they have any symptoms of Covid-19, and to present for testing if they are asked to do so.
Dr Sheahan said that there is a clear trend in both Cork and Kerry in recent weeks of outbreaks linked to various workplaces, and reminded those designated as essential workers to make sure that they are protecting themselves and others while at work.
“This is now even more important than ever for those designated as essential workers as they cannot continue their work if they become close contacts of confirmed cases.”
Last night, Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged people to remember that "we are doing this to protect our families and the most vulnerable in our communities" adding, "we will come through it and we will see each other again"
Both Cork Mayors, along with the Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council also came together to appeal to people to adhere to public health restrictions over the coming weeks.
In a joint video message, the Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh and the Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council, Cllr Patrick Connor-Scarteen urged people to make a renewed effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley, said that as a mother and a grandmother she knows the importance of family and staying in contact and of the “many sacrifices have been made in the way we live”.
Lord Mayor of Cork City, Cllr Joe Kavanagh echoed Cllr Linehan’s message and said that the Covid-19 is still with us and that it is “vital” to keep our distance to stop the spread of the virus.
An Garda Síochána will introduce a range of measures from this morning including a large number of static and rolling checkpoints, high visibility community engagement patrols, maximisation of operational ability, and ongoing support for the most vulnerable.
The measures are being introduced to ensure compliance with public health guidelines and regulations following the Government’s decision that the country should move to Level 5 under the Framework for Living with Covid-19.
As part of this plan, training in the Garda College will be suspended for the next nine weeks except for specialist training activity and 125 attested garda trainees currently undertaking phase one training in the Garda College, 75 garda trainees not attested undertaking phase one training, 60 gardaí working as tutors instructors in the Garda College will be deployed from November 2.
This in addition to the 45 gardaí who temporarily transferred from the Garda College to the front-line at the start of the pandemic.
In addition, across the organisation, gardaí in administrative roles will be re-deployed to operational duties where possible with over 2,500 gardaí on duty at one time, the primary focus being on checkpoints and high visibility patrolling.