New powers for gardai will enforce 2km exercising limit during bank holiday break
Delivering Easter eggs is banned and house parties will be broken up over the bank holiday under new powers handed to gardai to enforce emergency measures preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Officers will be using extra powers to clamp down on exercising more than 2km from homes.
More than 2,500 gardai are operating over 50 checkpoints nationwide between now and Monday night to ensure compliance with health regulations and travel restrictions as part of Operation Fanacht.
People who have already travelled to their holiday homes have been told to stay there, while gardai will be turning away those who intend travelling to places of temporary residence over the weekend.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, speaking at a press briefing, said officers had seen people's adherence to restrictions "starting to slip a little", with people exercising more than 2km from their home, moving around where travel was not essential and gatherings for house parties.
He said these were all areas in which there was a need for the new powers to enforce restrictions.
Mr Harris acknowledged they are "extraordinary powers" and that gardai will need to be "careful and be proportionate in applying the powers".
He added officers "want to entirely avoid any scenario of overreach" and wanted to be proportionate in their approach.
The regulations are now in effect after being signed off by Health Minister Simon Harris and will be in place until Sunday at midnight.
Penalties for non-compliance include fines of up to €2,500 and up to six months in prison, but arresting people is a last resort and gardai will be continuing with their engagement approach.
The first port of call, Mr Harris said, would be taking an individual's name and address rather than arresting them, while on-the-spot fines will not be issued.
The Garda Commissioner said visiting a family member with critical needs was seen as essential travel but children delivering Easter eggs did not fall within that scope and that "people need to realise it is not an essential journey".
He also said that officers had seen instances in which cyclists were travelling further than 2km from their place of residence to exercise. He said that needed to stop and cyclists needed to stick to the 2km limit.
Gardai have introduced the use of spit guards from today to use in specific circumstances where a person is spitting at a member of the public or gardai.
They will be in use for the duration of the crisis and follow a number of incidents across the country of people - claiming to have contracted coronavirus - spitting at gardai.
Mr Harris also called on the public to report people "blatantly" flouting restrictions to ensure gardai could move in and deal with the situation.
"What we'll be doing is making sure that movement is essential, as prescribed within the regulations," he said.
"If your movement is not essential you will be asked to return to your place of residence."
Concerns regarding people leaving their homes have been fuelled by the recent spell of warm weather, but this weekend promises to be a mixed bag.
Today will be the best day of the coming week as conditions become more changeable over the Easter weekend.
It will be warm and mainly dry nationwide, with highs between 15C and 18C.
Good Friday will be mild with temperatures between 14C and 17C.
Easter Sunday will see similar temperatures but is expected to be showery.