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Gardai looking to prosecute those flouting Covid rules

Warnings come as virus figures soaring

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Wearing a face mask, Caroline Malaugh takes her Labradoodle Molly for a walk on Henry Street yesterday

Wearing a face mask, Caroline Malaugh takes her Labradoodle Molly for a walk on Henry Street yesterday

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Wearing a face mask, Caroline Malaugh takes her Labradoodle Molly for a walk on Henry Street yesterday

Gardaí have sent files to the DPP over people allegedly flouting anti-Covid measures that make it mandatory to wear a face mask in a shop and on public transport, the Herald has learned.

Breaking the law can result in a fine of up to €2,500 or six months in jail.

Gardaí are trying to prosecute members of the public who break the laws, and want advice on how they can bring people before the district courts.

A spokesperson said gardaí engage, educate, encourage and, as a last resort, enforce in these measures.

"Where gardaí find potential breaches of the public health regulations, a file is prepared for the DPP in each case. An Garda Síochána does not comment on correspondence with the Office of the DPP," the spokesperson said.

Surveillance

The law allows for exemptions in some cases, and this creates a difficulty for gardaí in policing it.

It comes as greater surveillance of Covid-19 restrictions is expected to become the norm as the country grapples with another dangerous surge in the disease.

An additional 506 cases of Covid-19 and one death were reported yesterday as the Nat- ional Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) decided to leave the country at Level 3, but with a major warning about another deterioration in spread if people do not change their behaviour.

Among yesterday's cases, 91 were in Dublin, 76 in Cork, 53 in Donegal and 42 in Meath, with the other 244 cases spread across 21 counties.

"The call to action is the same as it has been for weeks, but much more urgent now," said Prof Philip Nolan of Maynooth University.

He said people need to radically limit their contacts, maintain physical distance and safe practices when they do meet and self-isolate and seek a test if a person develops potential symptoms of Covid-19.

The projection is that there will be 1,100 to 1,500 cases a day and 400 to 500 people in hospital by early next month unless the situation can be turned around.

"There is no county where the virus is not a cause of concern," Prof Nolan added.

New local electoral area figures show the worst hit for Covid are Lifford and Carndonagh in Donegal as well as Granard in Longford and Monaghan town.

HSE chief Paul Reid said yesterday that some hospi- tals may have to start postponing non-Covid procedures if patients who are very ill with the virus continue to be admitted in higher numbers.

Although hospitals are currently under pressure but not overwhelmed, Mr Reid said the number of virus patients has climbed to 157 and there are 27 who are severely ill in intensive care.

So far, 287 schools have been at the centre of testing, with 6,741 staff and students swabbed and 122 positives.

Nphet has told the Government it still has "deep concerns" about the spread of the coronavirus but has not recommended any further restrictions.

In a letter to the Government, the team, led by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, said the situation has "deteriorated further" since they recommended a national lockdown on Sunday.

Controversy

However, the letter does not make any more recommendations or propose increasing the level of restrictions across the country.

It outlines the number of deaths from the virus nationally and the new outbreaks in nursing homes.

It also highlights that there have been 397 cases among health care workers in the past two weeks.

The decision not to make any recommendations follows the controversy over Dr Holohan's team proposing a national lockdown on Sunday evening.

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 will meet today to consider the details of the new letter, but it is unlikely any new restrictions will be put in place.