This afternoon.

At Government Buildings.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a press briefing to give an update on the Government’s response to Covid-19.

In his briefing he said all the restrictions he announced while in Washington DC two weeks ago have been extended until Sunday, April 19.

He also said people should only leave their homes for essential reasons such as going to work or going to shops for food supplies. He said people should not make non-essential visits to other homes and no more than four people should gather in an outdoor social setting – unless the people are from the same household.

He said:

“Good afternoon, everyone.

“This morning the Cabinet met to decide on the next steps that the Government will take to respond to the coronavirus emergency. These are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency.

“We’ve agreed actions in three areas. First new measures to slow the spread of the virus as recommended by the CMO [chief medical officer] and the National Public Health Emergency Team, an expert team of public health doctors, virologists and scientists.

“Second, new measures to assist those who have lost or will lose their jobs as a consequence of the emergency and the scheme to ensure that many others do not and remain on the pay roll, rather than being laid off.

“And third, new emergency legislation that we’re asking the Dáil and Seanad to enact by the end of the week. Before I go through them in detail, I want to once again thank all of you for contributing to this great national effort.

“Thank you to our health service staff and our civil servants as well, our local authorities, are volunteers and NGOs, our Defence Forces, our gardai, our retailers, farmers and transport workers, carers and care workers, postal workers and those working in industry like pharma, food production and food service and medical devices.

“And thanks to everyone who’s helping out and helping others in a million different ways. Thank you all in religious life, our journalists and broadcasters, everyone doing their best to raise the spirits of our country.

“You’re rising to this challenge and the nation is grateful.”

Later

“I’m asking you stay at home if at all possible. This is the best way to slow the virus, ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed and buy us time that we need to build more capacity testing, contact tracing, beds and ventilators.

“So you should only leave home to go to work, if you can’t work from home and your attendance is essential. You should  only go to the shops for essential supplies, out for medical and dental appointments or to care for others or take physical exercise.

“Non-essential indoor visits to other people’s homes should be avoided and social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people unless you’re all from the same household.

“We’re in this for the long haul and this could go on for weeks, perhaps even months so we need to maintain our humanity as well. And it is OK to see our families and loved ones, because we have to look after our mental health as well as our physical health, but we have to maintain physical distance.

“Do it in small groups only and much less frequently than we would in the past. No unnecessary travel should take place within the country or overseas now or over the Easter break.

“In order to assist all of this the restrictions I announced in Washington DC are being extended until Sunday, the 19th of April and the following new actions are being taken, effective from midnight tonight.

“All theatres, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, betting offices, marts, markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut. All hotels, to limit occupancy to essential, non-social and non-tourist reasons. All non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing.

“A list of essential retail outlets and stores is being provided.

“All cafés and restaurants should limit supply to takeaways and deliveries only. All sporting events are cancelled including those held behind closed doors. All playgrounds and holiday caravan parks will close.

“All places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing. All organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place.

“The gardai will increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended social distancing. All  household contacts of a suspect case, that is someone waiting on a test or a test result should restrict their movements until the test is reported as negative or 14 days after the onset of symptoms, whichever is the shorter.

“As I’ve mentioned earlier, individuals should work from home unless attendance at the workplace is absolutely essential. And social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be of no more than four people unless all are from the same household.

“All non-essential indoor visits to other person’s homes should be avoided. All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided as well. And all scheduled cruise ship travel to Ireland will cease.

“Any setting that should close has been specifically identified today and the requirement that workers work from home, unless attendance is absolutely essential, is not to be read as meaning the factories or constructions sites have to be shut.

“The authorities are available to work with employers and unions on how to make physical distancing effective where that’s possible.

“There’s going to be an increase of park rangers and gardai in parks and public places to ensure that physical distancing is being observed. In Ireland, since Independence, we’ve always had policing by consent, rather than by coercion and I don’t intend for that to change now. That’s not our way.

“The new powers afforded to the gardai will be used sparingly and only where necessary. Let’s all play our part to ensure they’re not used at all.

“I believe a liberal democracy can do this without the need for authoritarian and draconian actions.”

“The impact of Covid-19 on our economy and employment has been sudden and will be enormous. I believe we need to maintain social solidarity, unity and a sense of community in this time of trial.

“In recognition of the fact that so many fellow citizens have lost their jobs so suddenly, we’re raising the Covid Unemployment Payment to €350 a week, that’s approximately 75 per cent of average earnings in the sectors most affected and compares favourably with what’s being done in other jurisdictions. The first payments will be made on Friday.

“The Covid Illness Benefit, for people who are self-isolating, will also increase to €350 per week and that can be topped up by employers.

“In order to encourage employers and companies badly affected by the emergency, to keep staff on the payroll, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced, to co-fund 70% of the cost of salaries up to a maximum of €38,000 a year.

“So for a salary of €38,000 the subsidy would equate to €410 a week in take-home pay. The cost of all of this will be great, many billions of euros in the coming months. But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly because it’s the right thing to do. And because we owe it to our fellow citizens.

“I strongly believe that maintaining a link between employees and employers and companies will make it easier for us to bounce back when this is all over. We’ll keep our economic infrastructure intact and will give business the best chance possible of making it through.

“The self-employed will also be covered and I know the sacrifices that many of our self-employed have made, to build up their businesses and practices and I know how worried they are at the moment, how vulnerable they feel and Government will do everything we can to help sustain you and bring you through this emergency as well.

“Ministers [Paschal] Donohoe, [Heather] Humphreys, and [Regina] Doherty will set out in more detail how these measures will apply.

“Finally, Cabinet this morning approved the emergency measures in the Public Interest Covid Bill. This legislation, for the duration of the emergency, will freeze rents, prevent evictions, make it easier for healthcare professionals, to re-register and return to work and enable former members of our Defence Forces to rejoin at the rank at which they left.

“We need you to serve your country again and to strengthen our nation at this difficult time.

“We also approved a framework agreement with the private hospitals. They will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act for the duration of the emergency. Thus adding over 2,000 beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to our health service. Public and private patients will be treated equally and private hospitals have agreed to do this on a not-for-profit basis and I really want to thank them for their co-operation in this regard.”

More to follow.

37 thoughts on “Gasáil Síos

  1. Amy.

    If Varadkar had any decency he’d resign. He’s utterly incompetent. His ego-trip’s going to cost lives.

    Reply
  2. Slightly Bemused

    @Amy I disagree, but that is probably an ecumenical matter.

    I am not a fan of him or his Government, but I honestly think they have acted well in this. I was involved in the response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, and later 2018 and ongoing outbreak in the Congo. The lack of leadership shown, and lack of clarity of messaging lead, among many other things, to many deaths. The political leaders tried to use the outbreak for their advantage.

    I see none of that here. I see brevity and clarity of message. What the future may bring, I cannot say, but for now I think they are acting appropriately. Their messaging is about protecting the individual and the worker, and the businesses that they and we rely on, but not the businesses only. He stated that that was the actual mission of the State for its citizens.

    Reply
    1. Amy.

      Massive difference between unstable west African governments and the Congo, the legacy of colonialism, and a stable state like Ireland. Varadkar’s useless. He hasn’t even passed legislation that would prevent evictions at this time. The homeless of Dublin have been abandoned. Nurses don’t have protective gear. Doctors have no faith in Simon Harris (who does?). Those in direct provision have been left to rot. Varadkar is more intent on pleasing his IBEC friends than helping those on low wages. We don’t need his neoliberal solutions, they’ll lead to people dying.

      Reply
      1. Slightly Bemused

        Like we have no legacy of colonialism?

        He specifically mentioned preventing evictions, in case you missed it.

        About the homeless, I do agree,but not just in Dublin. We have homeless in other counties – why should Dublin be special? As for the Direct Provision issue, they have given statements (admittedly actions will tell) on trying to address this.

        The issue about supply chain is not policy but practical, and has been addressed elsewhere.

        Your other points are merely statements of your political view, a point I stated I was not going to address.

        Reply
        1. Amy.

          If you’re going to reply to my comments, at least read them. I said he passed no legislation in regards evictions. He hasn’t. Ireland isn’t subject to neocolonialism like West Africa or the Congo. They’re third world, we’re not. Wow, Varadkar’s given statements regarding direct provision, well that should help them, they must be so grateful. Varadkar doesn’t care about people in direct provision, he regards them as subhuman. He always has. We need immediate action on direct provision, not just bland promises. Dublin homeless, Cork homeless, all homeless. Varadkar’s fundamentalist belief in neoliberal solutions will lead to deaths. Your belief in neoliberalism is patent.

          Reply
          1. Slightly Bemused

            At least read Varadkar’s statement so! I did read your comment, which is why I replied point to point.

            He specifically said he was working on legislation to avoid evictions – he has not done it but he said he was working on it. He actually stated that they are trying to figure out how to pass a lot of legislation in the current political stalemate we are in.

            As to the others – ever been in the Congo, ever been in West Africa? I have and I do know of what I speak. Forget your ‘Third World’ comparison idiocy, it is nowhere near so clear cut. The implication is that they cannot understand the issues, which is the underpinning of the concept of the Third World. Please do not be so simplistic.

            I actually agree with you on Direct Provision in general, just that in this instance they have made specific and rare statements that they hope to address some of them in light of this issue. I await the results, but this is the first time I have seen them comment so positively on any issue for those in DP. For that I am hopeful.

          2. Amy.

            Yes, I’ve been to the DRC, and if you think that Western powers haven’t destabilized that region for their own gain and access to raw materials, then you’re just playing the naive fool. Same with the ROC and Burkina Faso, and on and on. You’ll find plenty of Western people trying to blame the poverty of the third world on the people who live there, and I see you’re no exception. You’d be hard put to find one person in the DRC or ROC who doesn’t say or believe that Western neo-colonialism is the major source of their poverty. Mandela and Sankara thought the same. Bono and Geldolf don’t.

          3. Slightly Bemused

            Ah! Now I understand. You like simplistic answers to really complex issues. No, I do not blame the people for the issues they face, but neither do I equate the issues they face with the ones we do.

            I see again you choose to assign a belief to me I have not expressed. You conflate different issues to make a badly formed point.

            I therefore drop out of this conversation, there is no point.

    1. Cian

      Do you want to stop Irish people coming home?

      Oh, and if the airports/ports were closed (except for essential items, e.g. food/medicines) should the Irish/NI border be closed too? (and if not, why not?)

      Reply
      1. some old queen

        Oh please- there has been no restrictions from even highly infected areas until the individual airlines decided to cancel- just step off a plane and grab a taxi or bus.

        Reply
          1. wearnicehats

            everyone arriving in Australia now – including citizens – MUST self isolate for 14 days. Apparently the penalties for breaking this are severe.

          2. baz

            at this point no.
            Citizens have had almost all of March to reposition themselves.
            listened to a fool whining on radio 1 this evening – he went to Australia within the last 14 days and is now stranded there, we can do without such idiots
            (Aussies were fighting over toilet paper March 7th)

          3. Cian

            rubbish. How do you get a “blood test cert”? And just because a blood test was clear when it was taken yesterday – it doesn’t mean you haven’t picked COVID up in the interim.

  3. wearnicehats

    The restaurants one is a bit wishy washy. If you remove all your tables and chairs do you become a takeaway? I’m not trying to be funny – local cafe guy was trying to figure it out. Should really have just closed them across the board

    good to hear they’re sorting out this top-up payment glitch

    Reply
    1. Slightly Bemused

      My understanding, and I am subject to correction, is that there are different licensing laws for eat in restaurants, and take-aways. Just suddenly saying you will do take away if you did not before may be currently not covered by law. They are asking that this be addressed, and no sanctions made for those who were eat-in only who go take-away in the current climate.

      A friend who should know told me they want to keep as many take-out and delivery places open as possible, given the current situation. This will ease both the issue on the eateries, and also help people who cannot provide directly for themselves.

      Reply
      1. wearnicehats

        No I mean say if you do sit-in and takeaway coffees and sandwiches. Presumably you can just remove all your seating and just sell the takeaway coffees and sandwiches and all is fine.

        Reply
  4. username already in use

    Leo and his government were decisively rejected by the electorate. Now, as Ireland faces a terrible few weeks, the instinct is to unify behind his leadership for the sake of cohesion. The fact that his leadership created the situation where the government did nothing will be contested by his supporters. The fact that he delayed any measures until he was certain of his photo op with Donald Trump will be explained away too. And the fact that he ignored the advice he received until it was too late to meaningfully effect the outcome will be attributed to his not being properly informed. We saw all this before with FF in the banking crisis. In that case, the consequences were unpleasant and long lasting but the morbidity issues were not very obvious (although between suicides and health service cutbacks its safe to say that the casualties were +1000 and possibly multiples of that). Now, because no effort was made to advise outbound travelers to places like Cheltenham, or to screen inbound travelers and get their recent medical and travel history, Ireland is facing a public health catastrophe. And the leadership of this country continues to operate without a democratic mandate or popular support. There is no precedent for this ‘government” but the groupthink and the desire to unify mean that it cannot be publicly contested. I fear we are watching Leo, Simon, Regina and Co making an even bigger mess out of this that Bertie and Brian made back in the day. Ireland has always been badly led. But at least the leaders were elected. This is an extraordinary new low. After the inevitable public health disaster many will say they knew the emperor had no clothes. But where are those people now and why are they not speaking up?
    The truly sad thing is that this could have been completely avoided if the WHO had been ignored and we had adopted the Asian model of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. None of these places locked down except in response to localized outbreaks. They resisted the drift to authoritarianism pioneered by the Chinese Wuhan lockdown. But we are being led by an undemocratic project which serves the interest of a party with a fascistic past and containing prominent leaders with discernible authoritarian instincts. Watch out Ireland.
    In the absence of a national government, FG are taking responsibility for what happens next. I’m sure, like Donald Trump, they will be shouting that they are not responsible in a month or two. They will claim they didn’t know, understand, had conflicting advice, were limited in what they could achieve etc etc. And if by then they have managed to abrogate the electorate’s power, I doubt if they will encounter any serious opposition.

    Reply
  5. mexican

    Christ, there’s some trolls on this article. I am no fan of Leo nor have I ever voted FFG but in this current crisis, I think they are doing a pretty good job. The most important factor at the moment is calm amongst citizens and maintaining that as much as possible, hysteria serves no-one. We are testing as much as possible and that is a good strategy along with the contact tracing. Social distancing seems to be followed more or less and realistically you are looking for 90% compliance as you’ll never get 100%. From what I see, our goal is not to be overwhelmed in the ICU’s and have enough hospital beds to see us through the crisis. Anyone whinging at home with a sore throat that they didn’t get tested yet, using this as an example of how the government are “doing nothing” needs to cop on.

    Reply
  6. Ringsend Incinerator

    So, what’s the latest Irish Coronavirus infection rates and other sad news for today then?

    Unusually late…

    Reply
  7. f_lawless

    Noteworthy new study from researchers at Oxford University -covered in this Financial Times article:
    https://www.ft.com/content/5ff6469a-6dd8-11ea-89df-41bea055720b
    (article is behind a firewall, so I’m not sure if copying and pasting excerpts from it is crossing the line or not(?) If so , please delete!)

    “The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimated — perhaps as much as half the population..

    ..If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment..

    .., it spread invisibly for more than a month before the first transmissions within the UK were officially recorded at the end of February..

    The research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London, which has strongly influenced government policy. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” said Prof Gupta.

    ..the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. “

    Reply
    1. Cú Chulainn

      Ah, that’s ok then. Based on those numbers 40,000 people will be dead in the next 3 months in the UK. We can breath a sigh of relief.

      Reply
    2. D

      If it had already infected half the population testing can reveal that.
      Their claim then would require every second person would test positive for either a trace of the virus or a related antibody from now on.

      The half the population estimate doesn’t really stand up to basic scrutiny. It may yet happen that half the population does become infected, but not this early.

      > To provide the necessary evidence, the Oxford group is working with colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent to start antibody testing on the general population as soon as possible, using specialised “neutralisation assays which provide reliable readout of protective immunity,” Prof Gupta said. They hope to start testing later this week and obtain preliminary results within a few days.

      I wonder how honestly they will report their results :)

      60,000,000 /2 = 30,000,000

      30,000,000 / 1000 = 30,000
      by their estimate 30k have required hospital treatment already, another 30,000 due over the next two months presumably?

      Reply

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