A NATIONWIDE Garda operation to ensure compliance with the latest coronavirus restrictions is one of the biggest ever mobilisations of the force, its commissioner has said.
Around 2,500 gardaí are on duty across the country today, engaging in a mix of bike, foot and vehicle patrols.
Part of the operation will involve stopping people to check their reasons for being away from home.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: “We are obviously now well prepared for the next two weeks. We’ve put in place a huge operation involving really probably one of the biggest mobilisations of the organisation that we’ll have seen.
“Very much we’re focused upon engaging with the public, explaining to the public what the health regulations mean but also then encouraging them to comply. We’ve found already that the vast, vast majority of people do comply with the regulations, do comply with our requests, and we think that will continue.”
Gardaí are still awaiting new coronavirus-related enforcement powers that would enable them to issue fines for breaches of social distancing regulations.
The laws were passed by the Oireachtas and signed into law by President Michael D Higgins over a week ago but work is still ongoing at the Attorney General’s office to translate them into a new set of regulations for the Gardaí.
Today, Health Minister Simon Harris said he expected to sign off on the regulations over the weekend.
Commissioner Harris said gardaí had others powers available to them to ensure compliance with the restrictions while they were awaiting the latest regulations.
“The regulations will come along very shortly, we know we’ll have them within days,” he said.
“In the meantime, there’s still a lot we can do in terms of informing people, encouraging their compliance and really just making sure that everyone is aware of what our function is in terms of enforcing these regulations.
"The difficulty is there will be people in our society who make poor choices but they very often make poor choices, and there's a whole array of powers available to members of An Garda Siochana to deal with individuals and we will not be found wanting in doing so.
"We will receive the regulations very shortly and then we’ll be in a position also then to enforce those as well.
“But in the meantime, in effect, we’re taking a graduated response and this is about engaging with people and informing them and persuaded them to avail of the safety regulations as having been set out by the HSE.”
Mr Harris acknowledged organised criminals would seek to exploit the coronavirus crisis for their own ends but he insisted gardaí would remain focused on their key functions around preventing and detecting crime.
He also warned people to beware of scams related to the Covid-19 outbreak, highlighting adverts for testing kits and “snake oil cures”.
“All of these things are nonsense and they are just there to swindle you out of money,” he said.