People urged to stay home this Easter

Gardaí given new powers to enforce restrictions
  • Deborah Condon

People are being urged to stay at home this Easter weekend as part of continuing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has expressed concern that some people may attempt to travel to holiday destinations within Ireland, such as holiday homes or mobile homes, despite the travel restrictions that were introduced on March 27.

NPHET emphasised that COVID-19 is not just in nursing homes. It is in our community and our households too.

"There has been unprecedented sacrifices made across society in recent weeks to protect all people on this island from COVID-19. We urge the public, on this Easter holiday with sunshine and isolation fatigue, to stay the course and comply with the recommendations and measures in place. Stay at home and keep Ireland safe," it said.

Speaking at Tuesday's press conference, where it was revealed that Ireland had suffered its highest daily death toll (36), the Department of Health's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, emphasised that the disease "is still here and still represents a risk to the population".

"There is still transmission of this disease happening in a way that gives us concern. The epidemic is growing day on day, albeit at levels lower than it was in the earlier stages.

"But we are not at a point yet where we think we are ready as a society to step back from the collective effort that we have had in place. We need to continue to see high levels of compliance with the measures that are in place," he insisted.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has signed an order giving Gardaí new powers to enforce travel restrictions over the Easter weekend.

Penalties for non-compliance include fines of up to €2,500 and up to six months in prison. Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Wednesday, Minister Harris, said that he envisages that these powers will be used "sparingly", however he expects that checkpoints will be set up to check that people are complying.

"The position is very clear. You should not be travelling this weekend. I know this weekend is very important, both in terms of people's faith and their families, and yet we are going to need people this weekend to have a very different Easter to what they normally have," he commented.

He said that there is no doubt that Ireland is making progress, "but now is not the time for any complacency whatsoever".

"As difficult and challenging as it is for people to have to stay at home, it is not as challenging and significant as the other problems that could arise if we don't stay the course. We are seeing what is happening in other countries in relation to their death tolls and we simply cannot allow that to happen here," he added.

COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a fever, a persistent cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties. Some 80% of cases will be mild to moderate, 14% will be more severe, while 6% will be critical.

New restrictions in relation to COVID-19 are now in place until April 12, although this is expected to be extended. As part of these restrictions, everybody is being asked to stay at home, except in specific circumstances. These include:
-Travelling to and from work in circumstances where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home
-To shop for essential food and household goods
-To attend medical appointments
-For vital family reasons, such as caring for children or elderly people
-To take brief individual exercise within your locality, which may include children from your household, however this should be within 2km of your home.

All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household or living unit are prohibited.

Those over the age of 70 and medically vulnerable people are also being cocooned. For more information on this, click here.

ALONE, the organisation that supports older people to age at home, is running a national support line for older people facing difficulties due to COVID-19. The support line is open every day from 8am to 8pm, call 0818 222 024.

For more information on COVID-19, click here.

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