The government is preparing to move to Level 5 for six...

The government is preparing to move to Level 5 for six...
The government is preparing to move to Level 5 for six...

The government is believed to be preparing to move to Level 5 restrictions for six weeks, as the Irish Times understands.

Ministers are being asked at a cabinet meeting currently held in government buildings to approve the return to the strictest restrictions on the government’s life plan with Covid.

Intense negotiations between ministers and health officials are believed to have led to the decision to seek cabinet approval for level 5 instead of an expanded level 4 discussed yesterday.

However, it is assumed that schools and day nurseries will remain open and top-class sport will be allowed.

As part of the proposal to the Cabinet, the public is asked to be within 5 km of their home

No visitors or gatherings other than weddings and funerals are allowed below level 5.

Senior government sources said the decision to recommend such draconian measures was “very depressing,” but significant action would be required if the public were to return to safe behavior and that incremental measures would not work given the current evolution of the virus supposed to be reversed.

The cabinet met in government buildings before a full cabinet meeting at 4 p.m. A formal announcement of new restrictions is expected to be made around 9 p.m. on Monday evening.

Senior sources said it is now very likely that people will be asked to be within 6 miles of their home, as ministers believe it is one of the most effective restrictions to stop the virus from spreading.

As part of the escalation of measures, the government is also considering restricting opening times outside of the license. A closing time of 8 p.m. has been proposed to bring Ireland into line with existing restrictions in the north.

It is likely that the new measures will take effect mid-week to give the public time to adjust.

The non-essential retail trade is likely to be closed again given the increasing number of Covid-19 cases. A move that officials said would be a “massive blow” to the sector.

This is an increase from the level under consideration on Sunday evening when senior sources stated the government would approve level 4 plus restrictions across the country for a period of three to four weeks.

Under Level 4-plus it is assumed that only essential retail and mainly outdoor businesses are allowed to be opened, visitors to houses and gardens are banned, and no organized gatherings are permitted indoors.

It is also assumed that schools are likely to remain open, there will be no games other than elite sports, and pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to serve take-away or a maximum of 15 guests outdoors.

Members of the public are also asked to remain in the county except for work / education / other essential purposes.


Sources say most of the retail sector and other non-essential businesses need to close, but the cabinet still has some questions to decide.

That includes what happens to the construction sector, most of which may be allowed to continue operating, along with most of the manufacturing sector.

While the bulk of non-food retail stores are expected to close, there may be some exceptions, including garden centers and other outdoor businesses, and possibly some areas that are classified as lower risk, including the car dealership.

The government will also be aware that stopping car sales would also affect VRT revenues. There is also likely to be cabinet discussion on whether or not alfresco dining for restaurants can continue with the current restrictions to help the hospitality sector.

Secretary of State Colm Brophy said it was important to make a decision on new restrictions, adding that it was important to strike a balance between public health and doing business.

Speaking to Claire Byrne on RTÉs Today, Brophy said Level 3 does not provide a sufficient reduction in numbers.

He said he thinks the GAA championship should take place when it can be done safely as people need something positive in their lives.

He added that, as a former business owner, he felt that restrictions were necessary. “Basically” the most important thing is people’s health and life, he said.

Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne told RTÉ Radio One that the government’s goal is to do everything possible to protect lives and livelihoods.

However, Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the Irish retail sector, said many companies are relying on the Christmas trading season to survive. She asked the government to provide the risk assessment that informed the decision.

Retail Excellence, the largest retail organization in Ireland, said the shutdown would have “devastating effects” on the sector, adding that “we cannot close the industry at this time of year”.

“Another 60,000 jobs are at risk in addition to the 30,000 that have already been lost in the industry,” the agency said.

“Huge blow”

Adrian Cummins, executive director of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said an increase in restrictions would be a “heavy blow” to the sector over the next four weeks. “The focus now has to be on opening for Christmas,” he said on Twitter.

The Independent Gym Owners Ireland launched a petition six days ago calling on policy makers to move gyms to essential services for the “mental and physical wellbeing” of the Irish.

Under level 4, gyms would be closed. However, the petition, which had nearly 27,000 signatories as of Monday morning, said gym closings would “affect many people mentally and physically and have lasting effects on people, families and their loved ones.”

The opposition has called for additional support to be provided to those affected by further public health actions.

Sinn Féin Chair Mary Lou McDonald said offering government assistance when restrictions were raised is a very direct way of building social cohesion and “reliving the feeling that we are all together.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said the people who are really going to struggle would want a full restoration of pandemic unemployment benefits and wage subsidies.

In the meantime, any move to keep schools open is likely to raise union concerns due to the risk of Covid-19 to its members.

The Irish National Teachers ‘Organization said it was “increasingly concerned” that teachers’ public health precautions were “inadequate”.

“Teachers’ desire to keep schools open must be met with a firm commitment to keep schools safe,” it said.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said over the weekend that teachers have “fear and concern” about the prospect of schools remaining open while Level 5 restrictions remain in place.

Last week, the National Public Health Emergency Team asked the state to get to the highest point on the alert plan, Level 5, for a period of six weeks in light of what it calls the alarming upward trend in infection.

The government is expected to decline some of this advice and instead opt for Level 4-plus for up to four weeks. Then the situation is reassessed.

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