30 Dec 2020 | 06.41 pm
Govt. Orders National Lockdown Until January 31
Crippling business restrictions until Sunday January 31
30 Dec 2020 | 06.41 pm
The government has ordered a new ‘Level 5’ lockdown across the country, effective midnight Wednesday December 30.
Non-essential retail and gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools have been granted an extra day’s grace before being ordered to close on Thursday December 31. The government has also ordered that the ban on air travel and passenger travel on ferries from the UK will be extended to January 6. The ban also applies to South Africa until January 6.
The restrictions will remain in place until midnight on 31 January 2021.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin (pictured) commented: “In the week before Christmas, we were seeing about 5% of Covid tests coming back positive. Yesterday 18% of those tested were infected with the disease. Over the last seven days more than 8,000 cases have been confirmed. That is a 61% increase on the previous week.
“This latest surge is different to the second wave. We are seeing rising incidence of the disease across all age groups, especially those aged 19-24 and a very worrying increase among those aged 65 and older. We are already seeing a sharp rise in the number of hospital admissions. This morning, there were 454 Covid patients in hospital. It has almost doubled in a week.
“The situation is extremely serious and the numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days. With the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth this is not a time for nuance in our response. We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.”
The surge in reported Covid cases alluded to by the Taoiseach is partly explained by the increased number of tests over the Christmas period being reported into the official surveillance system.
There was a particular spike in reported tests and positive test figures on December 23, 24 and 25 when NPHET was pressuring ministers to initiate a new lockdown.
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In Covid expert Ivor Cummins‘ analysis, the reported spike in Covid positives and hospitalisations in late December may be due to increased Covid testing within the hospital setting.
Covid testing in hospital settings has increased since the summer, in line with what you’d expect as hospitals fill up in colder weather. According to official data, the recent hospital Covid testing numbers are July 65k, August 71k, September 100k, October 117k, November 110k and December 115k. Official data does not disclose what proportion of hospital tests are positive compared with tests in other settings.
The latest lockdown represents an appalling failure by government in general and the Department of Health in particular to adapt to the Covid public health emergency.
Nine months after the Covid infection started spreading in Ireland, the Dept. of Health still has not boosted hospital capacity sufficiently to cope with extra patient throughput. Instead, large swathes of the economy are repeatedly shut down, throwing tens of thousands of people onto welfare payment for their income.
Further evidence of government ineptitude is the glacial rollout of vaccinations, which commenced in Ireland on December 29. Meanwhile, Israel is closing in on half a million people vaccinated, having commenced its vaccination drive on December 20. As of Dec.29 the number of people vaccinated was 495,000, around 1 in 20 Israelis. 99,000 people were vaccinated on Dec.27 and c.100,000 were given shots on Dec.28. Teachers in Israel are being prioritised for vaccination from the start of next week.
The government said it was ordering the latest lockdown due to NPHET concerns that the epidemiological profile of Covid-19 is deteriorating.
The Irish Independent has reported that two-thirds of Covid-19 deaths in December were related to outbreaks of the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.
In a letter sent to health minister Stephen Donnelly on December 10, CMO Tony Holohan noted the persistently high incidence of Covid-19 among healthcare workers and healthcare settings, “including acute hospitals with significant numbers of associated cases and deaths”.
According to the Independent, at the time of the letter there were 53 open coronavirus clusters in 21 acute hospitals. The clusters were linked to around 1,000 new cases and resulted in 63 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic last March, healthcare workers have accounted for 15% of all Covid infections. Since the announcement of the six-week autumn lockdown on October 19 to date, 3,300 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid.
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Retail Excellence, the largest representative body for the retail sector, expressed “shock and dismay” at the new lockdown of non-essential retail outlets.
Chief executive Duncan Graham said that retailers had followed government guidelines since reopening just a few weeks ago and had carefully managed customer volumes and health and safety protocols.
“We did everything we were asked to do over the Christmas period. Earlier this week the Taoiseach himself acknowledged that there is no evidence of retail contributing to the spread of the virus, yet we are now forced to lockdown,” he stated.
“After the year we have had, I fear that many shops that close now may never open again. Our members will need urgent, significant financial support to have any chance of reopening and we will be seeking urgent meetings with the government around how to manage rents, taxes and payroll given the extended lockdowns we have had to endure over the past nine months,” Graham added.
A double payment of the CRSS, up to a maximum of €5,000 a week, will be available to businesses those subject to restrictions this week and next week. In addition, affected businesses will be able to avail of commercial rates relief for the first three months of 2021.
Family and social gatherings
No visitors are permitted in private homes/gardens except for essential family reasons such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, or as part of a support bubble.
No social/family gatherings should take place in other settings.
People may meet with people from one other household in outdoor settings when taking exercise
Weddings and funerals
Weddings planned up to and including 2 January may proceed as planned, up to a maximum of 25 guests. Weddings from 3 January may proceed with a maximum of 6 guests. Funerals may have up to 10 mourners
Domestic travel restrictions
People must stay at home except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, and will be permitted to take exercise within 5km of home. People away from their place of residence on December 31 will be permitted to return to their place of residence
Retail and personal services
All retail, other than essential retail, must close from close of business on December 31.
List of essential retailers: click here
List of essential services: click here
Schools, early learning and childcare services, higher and adult education early learning and childcare services will re-open later than planned from January 11 “with further review on precise situation in advance of that date”.
Business, training, arts events
No organised indoor or outdoor events is permitted to take place. All museums, galleries and other indoor cultural attractions closed.
Bars, cafes, restaurants, including hotel restaurants/bars can offer take away food and delivery only. Nightclubs, discos and casinos closed. Hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs open only for those with essential non-social and non-tourist purposes. Anyone staying in a hotel on December 30 may complete their stay.
Sport and exercise
Individual training only. No exercise or dance classes. No indoor or outdoor gatherings involving individual training except for exempted groups.
No matches or events to take place. Professional, elite sports, horse-racing and greyhound racing and approved equestrian events only are permitted to continue behind closed doors.
Capacity is restricted to 25%.
Housing minister Darragh O’Brien confirmed the reintroduction of the eviction moratorium from midnight December 30 as a result of the return of 5km restrictions on people’s movements.
The minister also stated that his department is working on a package to cover commercial rates waivers for affected businesses for Q1 2021 and that construction remains an essential service under these new restrictions. It is expected that this further rates waiver will cost in the region of €160m.
O’Brien commented: “The legislation we enacted in October means that any time there is a 5km restriction imposed on people’s movements the moratorium on evictions automatically kicks-in.
“This legislation gives tenants clear legal protections by effectively stopping evictions for the period of duration of 5km travel restrictions and by adding a further ten-day grace period to allow people to find new accommodation in the very small number of cases in which this may be necessary.”