AN TAOISEACH, Micheál Martin, has confirmed that the entire country will be moved to Level 3 of the Covid-19 restrictions from midnight on Tuesday.
In a televised address to the nation, Martin said that it is ‘essential that steps are taken now to bring down the rate of infection’.
The Government decided this evening to reject a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to make a nationwide move to Level 5.
This, he said, could have resulted in ‘the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs’.
“This is not about public health and businesses competing with each other; it’s about protecting lives and livelihoods,” he said.
“If we all act now we can stop the need to introduce Level 4 or Level 5 restrictions.
“We can’t protect one without the other.
“We have decided at this stage not to move to a more comprehensive lockdown. It’s important to understand that the potential implications of such a move are severe and very different to those we faced earlier this year.
“An immediate comprehensive lockdown would make it much harder to deal with non-covid health concerns, including the impact of isolation on the mental health of many of our people.”
Nationally today, there were 518 new cases and no further deaths reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Donegal has been under Level 3 restrictions midnight on Friday, September 25 while Dublin has also been in Level 3 for some time. From midnight on Tuesday, there will be a countrywide move to Level 3.
Martin said that it was important to ‘step up measures to increase compliance’.
“There is an exponential increase in the rate of transmission right across the country,” he said.
“We all must respond.
“This virus had had a profound impact in almost every aspect of our society. This virus will continue to have an impact. We must continue to manage it and protect ourselves.
“The challenge is to be as effective and proportionate as possible. We have held detailed discussions since receiving NPHET’s recommendation.”
“If we act now we can stop the need to go further. I have no doubt that we can and will get through this.
NPHET had, in a letter to the Government on Sunday, recommended a nationwide move to Level 5. Dr Tony Holohan, the Chief Medical Officer, and leading NPHET members met with the three coalition leaders at Government buildings this afternoon.
The Cabinet decided to reject NPHET’s plan – the first time that they have rejected public health advice.
Level 5 would have seen all bar essential retail outlets closed, social gatherings would have been restricted and people would have been allowed exercise only within 5km of their homes.
NPHET said that this was the ‘only opportunity; to bring the Covid-19 infection rate ‘back under control’.
Martin said: “I have no doubt that we can and will get through this. We will reach a time when we can again go about our lives without worrying whether we can catch or transmit this terrible virus.
“What happens next rests in our own hands, and in our responsibility to each other.”