Lockdown extension until March 5 approved along with tougher travel restrictions

Lockdown extension until March 5 approved along with tougher travel restrictions

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said Irish people who are travelling overseas for holidays during the Covid-19 pandemic need to stop.

As he described, "the seamless interaction" north and south of the border means that without an all-Ireland approach, the idea simply wouldn't work, particularly given that many border communities travel between the two countries for work.

Mr Martin said: "I want to make a very clear that there will be no half measures from me as Taoiseach, or from Government, in ensuring a prolonged suppression of this virus".

Mr Martin was responding to criticism from the leader of the Opposition, Mary Lou McDonald.

"And that is why we must keep the pressure up on the virus and do everything we possibly can to reduce it".

All passengers entering the country will be subject to mandatory quarantine, which signals a change from the policy of voluntary self-isolation.

New travel restrictions have also been confirmed with mandatory quarantine required for anyone arriving into Ireland without a negative PCR test.

He told the Dail that Ireland can not allow daily cases to return to the levels of recent weeks. "The evidence base for the vaccines is they prevent mortality and they prevent illness", he added.

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"It was a missed opportunity to once and for all set out a strategy to suppress and contain the virus", he said. "But the key measure is human behaviour, human behaviour is what stops the spread of the virus".

He said the nine weeks of lockdown this year meant his housing targets would be off by between 6,500 and 7,000 new homes.

"A Government that yet again has failed to prepare, failed to consult and failed to plan". His call for stricter rules on mandatory quarantining at home was supported by Ms Foley.

People are expected to stay home at all times except for food shopping and exercise.

Earlier on Tuesday, Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told local media that as of last Sunday over 140,000 people in the country had been inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines.

He said the vaccination programme is "going well", but delays to the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine could hamper the Government's timeframe.

To date, the total numbers of confirmed cases and COVID-19-related deaths in Ireland stand at 189,851 and 3,066 respectively, said the department in a statement.

Writing to the Health Minister on January 14th, the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "A pre-travel test alone is not a sufficiently robust system for the prevention of disease importation and modelling shows that even the best-performing tests will miss up to 40 per cent of cases".

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