Cabinet agrees to keep schools closed for January in ‘most challenging phase of all’
Cabinet has agreed on a number of other lockdown measures, including to keep schools closed but allow Leaving Cert students to attend three days a week and complete non-essential construction projects. The new measures will be in effect until “at least the end of January,” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggested that some restrictions could remain after February 1. “If I ran a business now I would think that I would probably be closed until the end of March,” he said.
Mr Martin said the regulations would be reviewed in late January but warned: “The situation is getting worse … we won’t be out of the woods by the end of January.”
The main measures are:
– Schools are closed, with the exception of graduation certificates and special education
– Childcare only for important employees and vulnerable children
– Non-essential construction closed
– Clicking and picking up in non-essential retail stores no longer allowed
– The ban on travelers from the UK and South Africa has been lifted, but a PCR test is required
– PUP and other pandemic payments are set to continue through March
We have to “dig deep within ourselves and face the coming month with steely determination and determination,” said Martin after the cabinet meeting.
“We have faced all the challenges we have faced. Perhaps we are now entering the most challenging phase of all,” he said.
“The personal choices we make … directly affect how many people get sick and how many people die.”
“We are in a battle against deadly and ever-changing viruses,” he said.
“If you are not involved in very important work, you have no reason not to be home,” he said.
The ministers agreed that all Leaving Cert students will be allowed to go to school three days a week from next week.
Schools are closed to other children when they learn to move online. However, the cabinet agreed to keep special schools and special classes in mainstream schools open for an estimated 15,000 students.
“While all science and health shows that they remain safe environments. The spread of the virus has reached a point where we need to stop as much mobility as possible,” Martin said.
The Cabinet agreed to allow essential workers to bubble with another household to provide childcare if they do not have an existing regime, as discussed in the Cabinet.
Childcare services, including regulated child minders and other childcare interventions, may continue to provide services, but only for vulnerable children and children of essential workers.
The cabinet agreed that the non-essential construction work must be completed by 6 p.m. on Friday. However, there are still plans to allow which sources are described as the “very limited” subset of construction activity.
Work on social housing that is almost complete is allowed, but only if it meets the established criteria. Large infrastructure projects, including the National Children’s Hospital and large school construction projects, continue, and emergency maintenance or repair by plumbers, electricians and gas workers continues.
The cabinet also agreed that a travel ban from the UK and South Africa will be lifted next Saturday. However, passengers must present a negative PCR test for the past 72 hours and isolate on arrival for 14 days. This requirement is then extended to all arriving passengers.
Transportation Secretary Eamon Ryan said failure to produce a negative test could result in a fine of up to 2,500 or six months in prison.
He said the cabinet had tentatively agreed to apply these restrictions to other Red List countries. He said this will be very difficult for the travel industry and for people who may have travel plans
The Cabinet also agreed that click-and-collect services for non-essential retail stores will no longer be allowed with immediate effect, which will be a major blow to the sector. Click and Deliver is still allowed.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of a significant increase in the number of cases, with hospitals in general and intensive care units coming under pressure. Another 5,325 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 17 deaths were reported on Tuesday, and the number of people hospitalized for the disease hit a new high of 921 on Wednesday.
Mr. Martin urged people to remember Mariter Tarugo, a native of the Philippines who worked for a health care assistant at St. Vincent’s Hospital and who died with Covid-19 on Christmas Eve.
Tánaiste Leo Vardkar said: “This is bad, it is getting worse and we are only beginning to see the effects on our hospitals.”
“We are facing a really dark January. A third wave that could be a lot worse than the first … Hosps and intensive care units that weren’t overwhelmed in the first wave are at serious risk this month. “
He said various systems including pandemic unemployment payment will be put in place.
They worked with the banks to ensure payment disruptions for mortgage holders and borrowers
“January is the month we all stay,” he said.
Culture Minister Catherine Martin’s officials have teamed up with RTÉ, TG4 and the Ministry of Education to immediately resume learning from home programs.
However, the school schedule is likely to face resistance from some unions. Andy Pike, education director at Forsa, which represents most of the special needs assistants, said reopening special schools and classes, as usual, “presents challenges that simply cannot be tackled”.