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No more movement - Ireland in lockdown for two weeks as Leo gets 'restrictive'

  • Only essential trips and brief exercise allowed outside

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Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

PA

Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

The Government has tightened its lockdown in the battle against the coronavirus and is telling people to stay in their houses almost around the clock.

"We're not prisoners of fate," Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last night as he announced new, stricter measures.

"We can influence what's going to happen to us next. There is no fate for what we make for ourselves."

For a two-week period, everyone is to remain indoors, other than making essential trips for food, household goods, to attend medical appointments and for "vital" family reasons.

Supermarkets will remain open. Non-essential shops will be closed.

Penalties

Brief exercise is allowed, but only within 2km of home.

Mr Varadkar said the 2km restriction would be "very hard" to police, but the Government had enacted laws to allow gardai to detain people and impose penalties.

All public and private gatherings are prohibited.

"Apart from the activities that I've listed there should be no travel outside of 2km radius of your home for any reason. These are radical actions aimed at saving as many people's lives as possible in the days and weeks ahead," he said.

Cocooning will be introduced for all of those over 70, and for categories of people who are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, meaning they must say indoors for the two-week period.

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Two women wearing face masks on an almost deserted Henry Street yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Two women wearing face masks on an almost deserted Henry Street yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Two women wearing face masks on an almost deserted Henry Street yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

It came as it emerged that a nurse is among those to have died from the virus here.

The death toll from the virus has continued to mount as three more people died from the deadly infection yesterday.

The number of new daily confirmed cases also reached a record high of 302, pushing the total up to 2,121 so far.

There was also a worrying rise in the number of severely-ill patients needing high-level treatment, with 419 hospitalised and 71 people critically ill in intensive care.

More men than women continue to contract the infection, accounting for 54pc of cases.

There have been 79 clusters of infection, involving groups of people who caught the virus.

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Dr Tony Holohans. Photo: Steve Humphreys/PA Wire

Dr Tony Holohans. Photo: Steve Humphreys/PA Wire

PA

Dr Tony Holohans. Photo: Steve Humphreys/PA Wire

Of those who were struck with the virus, nearly one in four are healthcare workers.

Community transmission, in which people contract the virus and have no known source, makes up 56pc.

In Dublin, 922 infections have been confirmed.

The speed with which the virus is gaining traction is revealed in figures which show the number of infected people has jumped from 683 to 2,121 in just a week - a rise of 1,458.

The Taoiseach said the death toll was "impossible to predict" as the virus was new and "we're only still learning about it".

"If you take the average flu season in Ireland, there'll be roughly 500 deaths," he said.

"If you take a bad flu season in Ireland, there'd be roughly 1,000 deaths.

"So it would be a surprise, and a very pleasant surprise, if the number of deaths at the end of this is less than 1,000."

Mr Varadkar also said that Intensive Care Units (ICUs) will be full in the coming days but the health service was working to increase capacity.

Tadhg Daly, of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private nursing homes, accused the HSE of poaching some of its staff at this critical time.

Staff from private nursing homes who were on a HSE recruitment panel are now being contacted to take up work, and private nursing homes are being asked to provide references for them.

"The objective should be to pool staff at this stage," he said.

He said he will raise the urgent issue with Health Minister Simon Harris at a meeting on Monday and any new staff recruited to the HSE at this stage should not be coming from the private nursing home sector.

"We have seen, which gives us concern, a number of nursing homes, 10 in the country in total, and a number of other residential facilities, as well as healthcare institutions, reporting clusters of infection," chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said.

"Given the vulnerable nature of the populations in some of those settings, we think all of those measures in combination show that, although we've seen some slowdown in the growth of cases overall, some of the other measures have continued to increase."

Dr Holohan said he was concerned about a number of clusters of coronavirus breaking out in nursing homes.

He said experts hoped that the restrictive measures would reduce transmission significantly.

"We think that now, over the course of this week having seen that data, some of those important indicators have more than doubled in the course of three or four days," he said.

"We thought it was not appropriate for us to wait until next week and the next scheduled meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team to evaluate whether further action was necessary.

"For that reason we met this challenge so that we continue our pattern of early and decisive response to the measures and the changes that we see happening in relation to the disease.