As some Border counties move to Level 4 of the Government’s Living with Covid strategy with added restrictions in place for the rest of the country, we take a look at what the new changes entail.
Is the country now at Level 4 restrictions?
No. Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan move to Level 4 at midnight (read my Q&A on Level 4 here) on Thursday October 15th until November 10th. The rest of the country remains at Level 3 though the Government announced added restrictions on Wednesday night, so it’s sort of Level 3 and a bit.
What are these added restrictions for the rest of the country?
There is now a nationwide ban on visitors to homes or gardens with the exception of visits for essential purposes, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people.
So I can’t meet with anyone outside my household?
You can. In outdoor settings away from your home/garden, up to six people from no more than two households can meet while maintaining strict social distancing, including for outdoor exercise and dining.
Is sport still allowed to happen in larger groups?
Outdoor non-contact training in pods of up to 15 is still allowed, with an exemption for professional/elite/inter-county/senior club championship sports. In terms of indoors, individual training only is allowed with no exercise or dance classes to take place.
No matches or other sporting events should take place, with the exception again for professional, elite and inter-county championship and horse-racing which should all take place behind closed doors.
Is there anything else new to the current Level 3 restrictions?
An exemption which had allowed GAA Club Championship games to be played behind closed doors has been removed and so the competition will not go ahead.
Has the Government said anything about public adherence to the current guidelines?
Taoiseach Micheál Martin pointed out on Wednesday night that the nationwide Level 3 status has been in place for a week and the Government is studying infection patterns as Level 3 can have a “significant impact” on the spread of the disease.
“There are concerns regarding the full application of Level 3,” he said, including people going into the workplace, slippage in retail and personal services, and people going to each other’s homes.
Will there be fines for people who don’t adhere to the restrictions?
The Taoiseach said work is under way on additional penalties designed to enhance enforcement, and they would be ready next week.
The Government is expected to introduce a system of graduated fines before the end of the month for breaches of Covid-19 guidelines, including failure to wear face marks when required and undertaking non-essential journeys.
The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 endorsed the recommendation made by National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) for an on-the-spot fine system for breaches of rules.
No figures were given but the fines are expected to be similar to those in the UK, which are €70 (£60) for a first offence and higher for subsequent offences.
Is it likely the rest of the country will go to Level 4?
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday that coronavirus was “on the march” and that it is more likely “more counties will move to Level 4 than the reverse”.
Separately, the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said on Thursday morning it was “likely but not inevitable” that the State will have to go to Level 4. He said he hoped the “enhanced Level 3” measures would have an impact on the rising levels of transmissions.
Can tradespeople still come to my home?
If you have a tradesperson such as a plumber, electrician or washing machine repair specialist coming to your home, that’s okay, they are still allowed to come in. Home owners and workers must, however, take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 such as washing their hands, using a face covering and making sure the house is well ventilated.
Are schools definitely not closing for an extra week at mid-term?
The closure of schools in the Republic is not under consideration at present and there are no plans to extend the mid-term break, according to the Minister for Education Norma Foley.
The announcement yesterday that schools in Northern Ireland will shut for two weeks over the half-term Halloween break prompted fresh speculation that schools could close south of the Border.
However, Ms Foley said she was committed to keeping schools open and no such plans were under consideration.
Has Halloween been cancelled?
The Taoiseach said on Wednesday Halloween is not cancelled but would be “different” and that trick-or-treating would not be advisable and that no street parties of any kind should take place.
Has anything been said about Christmas?
Regarding Christmas, Mr Martin said if people adapt and change their behaviour “of course we can have a good Christmas and enjoyable Christmas”, but that it would be a “different Christmas” adding that “until we get a vaccine normal life will not resume”.