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Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin announcing extension of Level 5 restrictions, Source: Irish government press service

Ireland extends Level 5 restrictions until 5 March

Ireland extends Level 5 restrictions until 5 March

Arrivals without a negative Covid-19 test will face mandatory 14-day quarantine

The Irish government has decided to extend the nationwide Level 5 restrictions until 5 March with a view to reducing  Covid-19 infection numbers and hence – hospital and ICU admissions. Announcing the decision at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin said Irish hospitals are under enormous pressure, health workers need urgent protection and the virus and its variants must not be given any breathing space. 

Reasons why curbs will stay  

The date of 5 March has not been picked randomly. Among other things, it will bring Ireland in-sync with similar restrictions to be imposed in Northern Ireland.

Tánaiste (Deputy PM) Leo Varadkar cited four more reasons for extending the restrictions until that date: to bring case numbers down; to give hospital and ICU staff time to recover from the current surge in capacity; to allow for the phased opening of schools across February and March; and finally, to get more people vaccinated in the first quarter of 2021.

The message for the next six weeks is very simple: stay at home, do not travel, do not make any journeys outside your 5 km limit unless you absolutely have to, said Martin, quoted by public broadcaster RTÉ.

Hpsc.ie latest 14-day data sheet shows that there were 766 confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100 000 population in Ireland, with 2266 cases hospitalised and 104 admitted to ICU.

Arrivals to face 14-day quarantine

Now, for the first time, people arriving on Irish soil are legally required to self-isolate. All arrivals from Brazil and South Africa as well as incoming travellers from other countries without a negative Covid-19 test will face a mandatory quarantine period of up to 14 days, ideally in a hotel.

Some of the self-isolation may be done in people’s homes, as most of the returnees are Irish citizens who have been vacationing despite the travel restrictions in place. The government is toying with the idea of a zero-Covid strategy, but will avoid such a move for the time being as sealing the country completely may prove to be unsustainable.

Additional gardaí (police officers) are being deployed to ports and airports to track down those who flout the 5km limit rule. Fines for local residents found to be outside their 5km travel limit with the intention of travelling abroad will be increased from the current EUR 100 to a yet unspecified amount which, according to RTÉ sources, could rise to EUR 500.

Masks mandated in banks and post offices

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnely has added banks, credit unions and post offices to the list of workplaces where mask-wearing is mandatory. Previously, such places have been exempt from this regulation, as they have been classified as “controlled environments” where ensuring social distancing is possible.

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