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Over-70s to bear brunt of new virus restrictions

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin announce the measures after a surge in cases

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin announce the measures after a surge in cases

PA

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin announce the measures after a surge in cases

The country is facing a battle to stop the slide back toward lockdown after a wave of new Covid-19 restrictions were announced which will have an impact on both old and young.

Older and vulnerable people will feel the brunt of the new restrictions, but they will also hit families, young people and those involved in sport.

The new measures which were described as the "most draconian in Europe" will see family gatherings strictly limited to just six people and all outdoor gatherings limited to 15 people.

Sport can go ahead but without spectators and stringent limits on the number of people who can train before matches have been introduced.

However, restaurants and pubs that can serve food will be permitted to stay open a half an hour later until 11.30pm.

Thousands of people who have returned to their offices in recent weeks are now being told to work from home once again until at least September 13.

Rules

Public transport is also to be avoided where possible and masks should be worn by anyone travelling in a vehicle with someone who is not from their household.

Despite new rules on public transport for the majority of the population, the Government insisted schools will open and students will be free to travel on buses and trains to get to classes.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday warned the country is at a "tipping point" and he said Ireland's rate of growth over the past two weeks is the fourth highest in Europe. Mr Donnelly announced the number of new cases yesterday was 190 while Ireland's five day average of new cases is 160 new cases per day, and rising.

"I agreed with my cabinet colleagues that we implement a number of measures to reverse the spread of Covid as outlined by the Taoiseach. We're doing this to protect public health, and protect lives," he said.

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Shoppers wearing masks in the city centre yesterday

Shoppers wearing masks in the city centre yesterday

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Shoppers wearing masks in the city centre yesterday

"We're doing it to protect our health services, to protect jobs, and to get our schools open and to keep them open."

There will be no further restrictions on attending mass or any other place of worship where up to 50 people can gather.

Up to 50 people can also still attend a wedding despite the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommending that this should be significantly reduced.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said he rejected this advice and has asked Nphet to review the recommendation they made on weddings.

Over-70s and the vulnerable are being asked to "use their judgement" and keep the number of people they meet as low as possible.

If they do meet someone they should keep a two-metre distance and stay in their company for as short a time as possible.

They are also being told avoid public transport where possible and only shop during designated hours which are safe for shopping for older people.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said older people can go on staycations, but should avoid staying in hotels.

Nphet's advice to Government was that over-70s should stay at home as much as possible but this was not highlighted when the Taoiseach announced the new measures.

Limit

Many of the new measures were aimed at stamping out house parties and unorganised gatherings. This is why no more than six people from three households will be allowed in a home and a limit of 15 people will be imposed on non-sport outdoor gatherings.

The Taoiseach said restaurant and pub opening hours had been extended to encourage people not to go to house parties and to give the hospitality industry a boost.

"The government have decided a more reasonable time for restaurants, and in particular would be 11.30pm to allow the last sitting to conclude in an orderly manner, but that would be a deadline then a timeline, that's currently not there in the mandatory sense," he said.

Powers

The Government is also drafting new enforcement powers for gardaí so they can clamp down on house parties or pubs found in breach of the new guidelines.

Mr Martin said he would examine the case of opening pubs that don't serve food before the end of the month, but could not give any commitment.

There was some concerns raised at a Cabinet meeting on the new measures.

Ministers raised issue about older people being able to go on staycations, communications around restrictions on working from home and avoiding public transport. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar criticised his Fianna Fáil colleagues for rushing through the new measures without debating them in a cabinet committee meeting with public health experts.

Several sources at the meeting said the Fine Gael leader said: "If we keep doing business like this, we won't be doing business for very long."

The Fine Gael leader was described as "furious" by one Cabinet source who said the party is "growing tired of the bad news constantly being announced under Fianna Fáil".

Frustrations have also been raised among Fine Gael ministers over the severity of the advice given by Nphet.

"You'd need a certain set of skills to deal with Nphet, because anyone who can make logic of their recommendations needs to be a genius," a minister said.

"We are implementing the most draconian restrictions in Europe," another minister said.