Move to Level 5 confirmed; Taoiseach asks people to work together to save Christmas

Move to Level 5 confirmed; Taoiseach asks people to work together to save Christmas

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Government Buildings in Dublin where he addressed the nation and held a press conference afterwards. Picture: Julien Behal Photography.

The entire country will move to the highest level of restrictions from midnight on Wednesday, the Taoiseach announced tonight.

Addressing the nation, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that the countrywide move to Level 5 is necessary as the restrictions implemented up until now have not been sufficient in tackling rising Covid-19 case numbers.

The tighter restrictions, which will remain in place for a period of six weeks, are being introduced in the hopes of saving Christmas, the Taoiseach said.

“If we pull together over the next six weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way,” he said.

“Every Christmas is important but this year it is particularly so.

“Each of us has our own rituals for Christmas and they will take on an extra poignancy this year as we remember those who didn’t survive 2020,” Mr Martin continued.

The Taoiseach also announced that the Pandemic Unemployment Pay (PUP) will be restored to €350 a week for people with prior earnings of €400 or more.

Cabinet has also agreed changes to the Wage Subsidy Scheme in a bid to keep as many people employed as possible.

Under the new restrictions, non-essential retail outlets and hairdressers will close.

Pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer a takeaway or delivery service.

A maximum of 10 mourners will be able to attend a funeral and wedding parties will be limited to 25.

Schools, childcare services, construction and essential businesses are to remain open.

People will only be permitted to meet with one other household away from their home and will be asked to restrict their movements to a 5km radius.

In a bid to tackle self-isolation and anxiety, the Government has introduced the concept of a “support bubble”.

“This will allow persons living alone, parenting alone or similarly at risk of social isolation to pair with one other household as part of a support bubble,” Mr Martin said.

Cork reaction 

Commenting on the announcement Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, said the move to Level 5 restrictions will be "mentally and financially tough for people and businesses throughout Cork" but said the measures are "necessary if we are to resume activity in the run up to Christmas".

"The increase to the value of the Wage Subsidy Scheme is very welcome. 

"There must also be absolute urgency in the deployment of business supports and in particular the new Covid Restrictions Support Scheme which is now needed less than a week after it’s launch on Budget day. 

"Any time lag in the availability of payments will be detrimental to businesses that were only beginning to come up for air," Mr Healy said.

"Every citizen and business has a role to play in bringing these measures to a close. 

"It is essential that progress is made before the Christmas period kicks off in earnest. 

"It is hard to overstate the significance of this trading period to retail and hospitality and we urge anyone shopping online to search the names of their local providers rather than simply searching for the product or service you have in mind. 

"It’s no longer about consumer preference, it’s about keeping people in our community at work," he continued.

Mr Healy added that Government must continue to "accelerate and strive for exemplary testing, tracing and isolating".

"Businesses continue to take every conceivable step and it essential that the relentless pursuit of best in class testing continues, so that in so far as is safely possible, economic activity can exist in parallel with pandemic control.

"Ultimately, we must keep Cork working. 

"The news today is exceptionally difficult but now is the time pull together once again," he said.

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