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'There is hope' - Taoiseach asks us to dig deep as we're locked down

Nation moved to Level 5 for six weeks in bid to save Christmas

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation last night

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation last night

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation last night

A Level 5 lockdown will come into force for the next six weeks after the Cabinet signed off on the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions.

The major escalation of Government-imposed coronavirus measures will see people hit with fines if they travel further than 5km from their homes.

The new restrictions come into force at midnight tomorrow and will run until December 1.

Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, barbers, gyms and non- essential retail outlets will also be forced to close their doors to customers in the busy run up to Christmas.

Schools, creches and construction sites will remain open under the second national lockdown.

Visits to family homes will be banned but two households will be permitted to meet outdoors.

People will also be allowed to expand their household bubble to include close family members and those who are isolated or vulnerable.

Training

Inter-county GAA games will be permitted behind closed doors, as will horse racing and greyhound racing. Elite sports will also be permitted.

In recognition of the impact of the lockdown on children and young people, non-contact training can continue outdoors for school-aged children but only in pods of 15.

The new rules will allow 10 people to attend a funeral.

However up to 25 people, rather than the six in original Level 5 plans, will be permitted to attend weddings.

A ban on evictions will be introduced and there are to be major changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

The PUP will increase to €350-a-week for anyone who was earning more than €400 before they lost their job due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Playgrounds will also remain open to give children a social outlet during the lockdown.

Disability day care and addiction services will also remain open and there will also be a mental health package announced to help vulnerable people through the lockdown.

Public transport will operate at 25pc capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his ministers met yesterday to discuss the dramatic introduction of the most severe Covid-19 restrictions.

Ministers met for almost three hours to discuss the plan to put the country into quarantine until December 1.

Addressing the nation last night, Mr Martin said: "These are the toughest of times and people must dig deep.

"We will suppress this virus and we will emerge from these restrictions on December 1.

"It isn't easy, but we must dig deep within ourselves. We must persevere and be resilient.

"These really are the toughest of times," he added. "There is hope and there is light. Every Christmas is important, but this year particularly so."

The Taoiseach said that, as the daily figures of Covid-19 infections show, the current Level 3 restrictions on their own have not been enough.

"Further action is now required. Nphet has been clear on what it believes is needed," Mr Martin said.

The Government cannot stop the virus on its own, he said, adding: "Families, individuals and frontline workers have sacrificed so much.

"So many things we took for granted have been taken from us. When we give it opportunity to spread, it spreads."

The meeting came after a weekend of negotiations between ministers and senior officials over introducing stricter measures.

At yesterday's Cabinet discussions, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys brought a joint memo to increase the PUP to €350 a week for anyone who was earning more than €400 before they lost their job due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Unemployed

At present, anyone earning less than €200 before the Covid-19 pandemic is paid €203 a week, those who earned between €200 and €300 receive €250 a week and those paid more than €300 get €300.

It is expected the restrictions will lead to thousands more workers becoming unemployed in the coming weeks.

The Government's Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is to get a major overhaul to coincide with the Level 5 restrictions.

The scheme currently has two rates with the highest payment set at €203. The expanded scheme will have four rates with the top payment set at €350.


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