Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that Dublin is at a “very dangerous place” and without action, could return to the worst days of the crisis.
In a live address to the nation, Mr Martin said he knew the havoc the virus was causing to the economy, to sports, to arts and culture.
“I know this, my first and most important obligation is to protect you. This virus kills. It kills old people but it kills young people too,” he said.
He said that the new restrictions for Dublin would leave “many people angry” but it was necessary to protect life. Mr Martin was speaking after the Government decided that from midnight tonight, Dublin city and county would move to Level 3 alert for the next three weeks.
Mr Martin outlined some of the new restrictions that would impact on the capital.
Visitors from one other household will be allowed into homes. Training will be allowed to take place but no matches. Weddings and funerals will be confined to 25 people. People have been asked not to travel outside or into Dublin city and county.
“Many will be upset by what we have to do but please be assured these restrictions are recommended by our leading medical experts (in this field).”
He said questions had been asked about the pause on indoor dining for the next three weeks.
“The fact is that while we are seeing a lot of infection in people’s homes, the initial infection is taking place in the community,” he said.
He argued that the Government needed to “act now and in common purpose.”
“We owe it to the memory of all those taken by this virus.”
He added: “We are a resilient people. As a nation we have come through every manner of trial and hardship and this too will pass.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that many people do not want to believe it but that Covid-19 was getting serious again.
Mr Varadkar was the first speaker in a press conference with Mr Martin, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and the Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn.
He said the positivity rate had increased to well over 2 per cent and the rate had tripled.
“It’s not all bad. There is hope. If we compare ourselves to many of our neighbours we are doing relatively well,” saying that Dublin was doing better than Belfast, or Amsterdam or Paris.
Turning to the impact on business and employers, he said some people would be laid off “sadly” for a second time this year and some businesses would close.
He said people would be entitled to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) if they were not working. He said that an additional € 30 million would be released for Dublin in the form of restart grants, as well as € 5 million for sport.
Mr Varadkar repeated all the individual protocols that individuals should observe, including handwashing and wearing of face masks.
Minister for Transport and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the incidence of the disease in Dublin was twice that of other parts in the country and was rising by between 5 per cent and 7 per cent each day.
“For each 1,000 extra people who get the virus, we get 50 people who are hospitalised and five to ten people admitted to ICU and between 5 to 10 deaths,” he said. That, he said, why the “hard decisions” had to be made.
“We need to take three weeks to stop this disease in its tracks and get back to Level Two and Level One,” he said.
Asked about the high incidence level of community transmission, Dr Glynn said: "There is no country that does not have a significant proportion of cases that are community transmission."
He said the State had to take measures to reduce congregations and on this occasion it was social congregations.
The Taoiseach told the press conference the Government would work with the four Dublin councils in Dublin to ensure that outdoor dining could take place.
Asked about the role of the new oversight group, which acts as a buffer between NPHET advice and Cabinet, the Taoiseach said no change was made to the advice received from NPHET.
Asked if NPHET had considered imposing a Level 4 restriction in Dublin, Dr Glynn said: “We considered the levels in the round and there was consensus that Level 3 was the appropriate level.
“The whole purpose of moving now is to avoid moving to something more severe in a few weeks’ time.”
Asked about lower rates of hospitalisations in Spain and France compared to last March, Dr Glynn said the profile of the disease now compared to then was different in it trajectory, and also somewhat different in terms of hospitalisation and mortality.
“What is very clear is there is no evidence that the virus has changed.
“Nothing has changed in the way we prevent it or treat it. There is no evidence to suggest the outcome will be any different.”