Speech by An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD
This evening, all across Europe, the Covid 19 virus is regaining its foothold and spreading at a rate not seen since March and April.
In the past two weeks alone, the majority of countries have seen a doubling of new cases. And on our island, while the pattern varies in different counties, the threat is growing.
Here, in our Capital, despite people’s best efforts over recent weeks, we are in a very dangerous place.
Without further urgent and decisive action, there is a very real threat that Dublin could return to the worst days of this crisis.
But this is not inevitable.
I understand how frustrated people are – how much we all want to put this pandemic behind us – but we have to remember it is still deadly and have to take action.
It is only we as a people, working together and making the sacrifices that are being asked of each one of us that we can slow the new wave of the virus.
As well as being Taoiseach, I am also a father, a husband, a brother, a sports fan, someone who likes a pint with my friends.
I know how exhausting, how infuriating, how lonely it has been and still is for so many of our people as we try to manage this.
I know the havoc that the virus is causing for some sections of our economy, and the hardship that it is causing in particular within our hospitality trade and in our arts and culture community. And I know that we must take new action to help them.
But I also know this, my first and most important obligation, and that of Government, is to protect you.
This virus kills. It kills more old people than young, but it kills young people too. And the ones it doesn’t kill, it leaves many of them sick and disabled for months. At least.
I know that the additional restrictions that are needed for Dublin will make many people angry, but we have received very clear advice that these restrictions will help reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.
Every decision we make and every measure we introduce, we do so in an effort to protect the most vulnerable, to resume and maintain normal health and social care services and to keep our children in school. We also need to keep as many people as possible working.
And so, from midnight tonight, and on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, Dublin city and county will move to Level 3 of the Government’s Framework for Restrictive Measures for a period of three weeks.
This new status will include but not be limited to the following restrictions:
• Visitors to private homes, including gardens, will be permitted from one other household only, and involve up to a maximum of 6 people.
• No organised indoor gatherings should take place, and outdoor gatherings should have a maximum of 15 people.
• Restaurants and cafes, including pubs serving food, will close to indoor dining but can remain open for takeaway and delivery. They can also remain open for outdoor dining for a maximum of 15 people. As already announced, wet bars will remain closed.
• Visits to long term residential care facilities are suspended, with the exception of critical and compassionate circumstances.
• Those living in Dublin are advised to stay within the county, unless they need to travel for work, education and other essential purposes.
• Similarly, people outside of Dublin are advised not to travel into the county except for work, education and other essential purposes.
• Sports training activities can continue, but only for non-contact sports in the outdoors and in pods of up to 15. There is an exception to this for professional and elite athletes, inter county sports and senior club championship.
• Indoor training should be confined to individuals only and no classes should take place.
• No social or family gatherings should take place other than weddings and funerals, but the number of people at both should be restricted to 25 from Monday. Weddings due to take place this weekend may go ahead under level 2 restrictions and people are reminded to follow public health guidelines.
Many will be upset at what we have to do, but please be assured that all of these restrictions are based on the recommendations of the leading medical experts working in our country, in order to save lives and protect health.
There has been some criticism about the decision to pause indoor dining in restaurants and gastropubs for the next three weeks. People reasonably ask why?
It is a very fair question.
The fact is that while we are seeing a lot of cases spreading in people’s homes, the initial infection is taking place outside the home and in the community.
We need to keep the disease out of people’s homes in the first place.
Our decision to act now on indoor dining is not any reflection on business owners who have done everything that was asked of them.
We are doing this because we want to minimise the number of places where people can congregate and where the disease can spread for the next three weeks.
Everything we do is based on the evidence of our medical experts.
Along with these decisions we will implement extra business supports.
We will immediately invest €30 million in a top-up to the Restart Plus grant for Dublin businesses. This will be open to all businesses affected by these measures including those that have already availed of the original grant.
The Government has also agreed an additional €5 million package to support those affected in the arts, culture, sports and tourism sectors in Dublin.
Later this evening, my colleagues and I will explain the complete range of restrictions with stakeholders, political representatives from Dublin, and representatives of the news media. Full details will be available for every citizen on Gov.ie and published in the media.
We are in a very urgent situation. We need to act now and act decisively.
Everyone with the privilege of a public platform has a role to play to amplify this message.
We need to act now in common purpose and for the common good.
We owe it to our frontline workers who continue to put themselves at risk every day, and we owe it to the memory of all those taken by this virus.
Our objective is clear. We must reduce the spread of the disease, stabilise the situation nationally, and bring Dublin back into line with the rest of the country within the next three weeks. We did it before with Laois, Offaly and Kildare and we can do it again.
We are a resilient people.
As a nation, throughout our history, we have come through every manner of trial and hardship.
And this too will pass.
The great responsibility that rests on each and every one of our shoulders is to do everything we can to make sure that when it does pass, we have brought as many of our families, friends and neighbours with us,
alive and in good health,
to enjoy the better and brighter days that lie ahead.
Go raibh maith agaibh.
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