'We're in this for the long haul'; Emergency measures could last for months

'We're in this for the long haul'; Emergency measures could last for months
A member of the public wearing a face mask in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

The Taoiseach has asked people to "stay home if at all possible" as part of the new restrictions put in place by the government to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The significant new restrictions come following a cabinet meeting to decide on the next steps that the government would take to respond to the coronavirus emergency.

The “unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency” include new measures to slow the virus, new measures to assist those who have lost or will lose their jobs because of the emergency, and new emergency legislation that the government is asking the Dáil and Seanad to enact.

People arriving in cars in a well organised way at the Covid-19 test centre at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
People arriving in cars in a well organised way at the Covid-19 test centre at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

Mr Varadkar said that people should only leave their homes to go to work if people cannot work from home and attendance is “essential” and people should only go to the shops for essential supplies.

He said that people should only go outdoors for medical and dental appointments, or to care for others or take physical exercise.

“Non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided and social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people unless you’re all from the same household.

“We’re in this for the long-haul and this could go on for weeks, perhaps even months so we need to maintain our humanity as well. 

"It is okay to see our family and loved ones because we have to look after our mental health as well as our physical health but we have to maintain physical distance, do it in small groups only and much less frequently than we would in the past.

“No unnecessary travel should take place in the country or overseas now or over the Easter break. In order to assist all this, the restrictions I announced in Washington DC are being extended until Sunday, the 19 of April and the following new actions are being taken.

“All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, betting offices, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries, and other similar outlets are to shut.

“All hotels are to limit occupancy to essential non social and non tourist reasons. All non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing.

“All cafes and restaurants should limit supplies to takeaways and deliveries only. All sporting events are cancelled, including those held behind closed doors. All playgrounds and holiday caravan parks will close. All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time.

"All organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place. The gardaí will increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended social distancing.” 

Mr Varadkar said that the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and employment has been sudden and “will be enormous”.

In recognition of the fact that so many citizens have lost their jobs, the Covid Unemployment Payment will be increased from this Friday.

The Covid Illness Benefit for people self-isolating will also be increased.

“We are raising the Covid Unemployment Payment to €350 a week, that’s approximately 75% of average earnings in the sectors most affected and compares favourably with what’s being done in other jurisdictions.

“The Covid Illness Benefit for people self-isolating will also increase to €350 per week and that can be topped up by employers.

“In order to encourage employers and companies badly affected by the emergency to keep staff on the payroll, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced to co-fund 70% of the costs of salaries up to a maximum of 38,000 a year.

A Covid-19 sign at Washington Street in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.
A Covid-19 sign at Washington Street in Cork.Picture Denis Minihane.

“The cost of all of this will be great, many billions of euros in the coming months. But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly, because it is the right thing to do and because we owe it to our fellow citizens.” Mr Varadkar thanked the public for “rising to the challenge” and said that “the nation is grateful”.

“Above all, I want to thank the people of Ireland for listening to the advice when it comes to physical distancing, regular hand washing, taking care when sneezing and coughing, and reducing the number of social events and gatherings that you attend.

“It’s too early to know for sure, but we do believe it’s making a difference. However, we do believe we need to do more. We need to flatten the curve and suppress the virus. So I’m asking you to stay at home if at all possible. 

"This is the best way to slow the virus, ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed and buy us the time we need to build mope capacity, testing, contact tracing, bed and ventilators,” he said.

The Taoiseach said that he would not describe the measures announced today as a “lockdown”.

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