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Easter getaway drivers warned gardai will set up checkpoints

  • Worst day in virus fight as 36 lose their lives to Covid-19

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

Gardai are warning the public to stay at home for the Easter weekend or run the risk of being turned back at nationwide checkpoints.

With fine weather expected, there are mounting concerns that large numbers of people will decide to relax their coronavirus vigilance over the bank holiday.

These include day-trippers or those heading to holiday homes for a few days over Easter.

The issue had been considered by the garda national Covid-19 co-ordination unit, under Deputy Commissioner John Twomey.

Deadliest

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met last night with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and senior ministers as the force awaited new powers to enforce some of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Health Minister Simon Harris later told RTE he was signing the tougher regulations.

"It is important that gardai have these powers in their back pocket should they be needed," he said on Prime Time.

It came as Ireland suffered its deadliest day to date, with 36 people losing their lives to the virus.

Gardai will be out in force and manning checkpoints around the country over the next few days.

Anybody found to be in breach of the 2km travel ban will be turned back at the roadblocks, unless they have an exemption.

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People observe personal distancing on Portmarnock beach yesterday

People observe personal distancing on Portmarnock beach yesterday

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

People observe personal distancing on Portmarnock beach yesterday

The issue of giving gardai more powers was discussed at the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

While many ministers noted the strong degree of public compliance, some expressed fears that the longer the restrictions continue, the more potential there could be that people would stop complying with them.

A cabinet minister said afterwards: "Once people realise they're not going to be punished for something, they will break the rules, so this thing could break down."

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned yesterday that restrictions will not be eased until the coronavirus testing regime has improved to the point where it is possible to "hunt down" positive cases and contacts within 24 to 48 hours.

It currently takes an average of seven to 10 days to get a test result.

He said a delay of several days would not be "good enough" to allow for emergency measures to be lifted.

Laboratory

Dr Holohan was speaking as it was announced that 36 more people died from the coronavirus yesterday, bringing the death toll to 210.

The median age of those who died was 81, with 19 men and 17 women.

Another 345 new cases were also diagnosed, with several of the tests read at a laboratory in Germany because of a lack of capacity here. There are now 5,709 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland.

Dr Holohan said that at this point he did not envisage recommending the emergency measures be lifted on Sunday, but there will be a clearer picture of the impact of the restrictions later in the week.

Apart from indicators such as growth in new cases, hospitalisations and intensive care admissions, the assurance that it is possible to detect people who are positive, and trace their contacts, in "real time" will be key to any assessment of when restrictions can be eased.

"We will also be informed about any advice we are anticipating from the European Centre for Disease and Control," Dr Holohan added.

The virus would have to be "behaving itself" in a way that meant it was under control and residential centres like nursing homes would also have to have contained its spread.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said around 2,500 tests a day are being carried out.

So far 42,484 tests have been carried out, with 19pc of samples testing positive.