Additional restrictions will be imposed in Dublin on home visits, indoor gatherings, care home visits as well as wet pubs remaining closed under the Government’s new, five-level coronavirus plan.
However, despite Ministers expressing serious concern over a dramatic increase in cases in Dublin in recent weeks, the Cabinet has pulled back from moving the capital to Level 3, instead tailoring a number of extra conditions for the capital without changing the level.
“Current Covid numbers in Dublin are very worrying and the Government today has decided to introduce additional measures (for the capital),” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who said the country would be put on Level 2.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said pubs in 25 counties will reopen as planned on September 21st and that 200 people will be allowed to attend events in large, outdoor stadia, with the possibility of more attending events in a stadium such as Croke Park.
He said the virus incidence has increased ten-fold in Dublin in the past month and unless there are preventative measures there will be “a second wave of hospital admissions, ICU admissions and possible deaths”.
He said Dublin people must follow the four Ws: Do not welcome people from other households. Wash your hands. Watch your distance and keep 2m apart. Wear a facemask.
Under Level 2 of the plan, 50 people can attend an indoor wedding, six people can visit a home and 15 people can gather in a garden.
It was also announced that the Winter Plan Budget would be €600 million, a eight-fold increase on last winter.
The Cabinet met earlier to discuss Ireland’s new medium-term plan for dealing with coronavirus, Living with Covid-19, which will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said any new restrictions in the capital would be “proportionate”.
“We do not want to get back to a point where we are seeing the people in hospital and ICU growing significantly and we can’t afford to let that happen. Steps will be taken but they will be proportionate and it will remain open to Government in the weeks ahead to review the decision again.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said officials wanted to ensure “trends they see in Dublin which is a rapid increase in the virus do not spread to the rest of the country.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting, said that “the road map is about how we suppress the virus, how we move locally, how we move quickly”.
Mr Donnelly said the new measures would come into effect at midnight and they would be about “how we take the lead from public health doctors to do what we know works to stop this virus, to allow people to live their lives and protect the health care system, keep the schools open, protect jobs, protect lives. That’s what today will be all about”.
Mr Donnelly said that the lesson learned from Laois, Offaly and Kildare was that if a community quickly gets behind the public health doctors and their advice that the virus can be suppressed quickly.
The Minister said the road map will be for the next six to nine months.
New official health figures show that Covid-19 infections in Dublin are continuing to rise.
There are have been 95.1 cases of the disease for every 100,000 people in Dublin based on 14-day incidence rates, considerably higher than the next county, Louth, with 66.7 cases per 100,000.
Infection rates in Dublin are on average close to but in some parts of the county almost double the national average.
Overall, the incidence rate nationally stands at 50 cases per 100,000, according to new statistics published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Tuesday morning.
Another 208 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Monday night, including 108 in Dublin. There were no new deaths.
The number of hospitalised patients has grown from 36 to 60 since the start of the month, while the number in intensive care has increased from six to 11.