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New coronavirus restrictions will be announced tomorrow – Simon Harris

New Covid-19 restrictions will be announced tomorrow, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said.

r Harris said the Government will act swiftly in introducing new measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking on RTE’s The Week In Politics, the minister gave the first indication that new rules will be announced after the Cabinet meets tomorrow.

He said a number of issues will have to taken into account such as the mental health impacts of another lockdown and noted the rise in domestic violence during the last lockdown.

The minister would not say what level of restrictions he believed would be announced but he said “Level Three has not worked”. He said the rising number of new cases and hospitalisations is “really concerning our health officials”.

He said the new restrictions will be nationwide rather than county-by-county.

Minister Harris said the government was trying to get the balance right “to keep as many businesses open as we can, but we can’t prolong the inevitable here and keep doing things in a piecemeal fashion.

“If we are going to get back on top of this virus, we are going to have to take decisive action tomorrow.

“What the government is trying to do is to find that landing spot of doing enough to get us to where we need to be but also recognise the many different demands that they are,” Minister Harris said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was yesterday briefed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and senior public health officials before a meeting with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

“The meeting went on for four or five hours yesterday and they heard presentations from Nphet and Paul Reid, the head of the HSE, but also on a wide range of areas such as the effects of the last lockdown such as domestic abuse reports being up by a third.

“This is different to March and April as we are having to ask people to agree to more restrictions for a second time but we have to balance that against what people are willing to sustain and bear – but we will act tomorrow.

“The reason the Government is taking the time to consider all the various implications is so that when they act, it can be decisive and nationwide.

“[We need to] move from a period of having to take different actions every few days as I think that is really getting on top of people,” Mr Harris said.

Independent TD Michael McNamara said he is concerned about the heightened restrictions.

He said: “I don’t think we can continue to go down a road that hasn’t succeeded thus far without at least considering the alternatives.

“The virus was out of control in March and without any laws and any regulations, the people of Ireland flattened the curve.

“Without the same regulation, Sweden is not experiencing the same increase in cases that we are. We have to ask why we are where we are and that is down to not putting into place an effective testing and tracing mechanism,” The Clare TD said.

Labour TD Brendan Howlin said the efforts of the Irish people to suppress the virus the first time were “wasted” as he claimed the Government failed to ramp up ICU capacity and implement a rapid testing and tracing mechanism.

“The question is, are we going to do it this time?” he said.

More to follow…

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