Subscriber OnlyPolitics

Growing concern in Government that Covid numbers could spiral out of control

Inside Politics: Nationwide ban on visitors to homes and gardens to come into effect

A total of 1,095 new cases and five further deaths were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team

Good morning,

From midnight tonight, the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan will be placed on Level Four of the Government’s Covid 19 framework.

The three party leaders lined out in Government Buildings last night to relay the latest bout of bad news following agreement by Cabinet.

The rules for these three counties were outlined: people should not have any visitors to their homes, the maximum number of attendees at a wedding is six, non-essential retail will close and all non-essential workers are to work from home.

READ MORE

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned that thousands of workers will be laid off in the coming days.

“We will try and get you back to work as soon as possible,” he promised.

The possibility of Border counties moving to Level Four was discussed at a high level earlier this week. It came hot on the heels of the Northern Executive and Assembly decision to declare a four-week lockdown.

The North’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, told Assembly members the hospitality sector will shut down for four weeks from tomorrow while schools will close for two weeks from Monday.

Here's a piece from Gerry Moriarty with all the details on what's happening there.

Given the decision in the North, and high Covid cases in Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, the renewed focus on the Border counties was not unexpected.

What may have taken some households by surprise was the nationwide decision to ban any visitors to homes or gardens except for visits of essential purposes.

The move came hours after 1,095 new cases and five further deaths were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) – the highest number of new confirmed cases in a day.

Officially, we have hit our second peak, and deep concern is growing in Government that the situation could very quickly spiral out of control.

As colleagues Jack Horgan-Jones and Vivienne Clarke write in our lead today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night relayed his worry about the ongoing level of non-compliance under Level Three restrictions.

The grim message from Martin was the Government is going to hold off on any decisions for the rest of the country for one more week.

Globally, we know we are not alone in facing another wave of Covid-19. France said yesterday it would impose a curfew in the Paris region and eight other major metropolitan areas.

In the Czech Republic, primary schools, pubs and restaurants closed yesterday.

The Netherlands returned to a semi-lockdown, closing bars and restaurants, although schools are open for now.

Furthermore, Europe has now overtaken the United States in terms of new Covid cases.

So the ink had barely dried on Budget 2021, one of the largest in the history of the State, before the unrelenting drum of the coronavirus news cycle resumed its beat.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan tried to sound a more optimistic note last night: it’s simple mathematics, we know how to turn it, we’ve done it before and we can do it again.

Crunch meetings in Brussels

After a late night, the Taoiseach heads to Brussels today for a meeting of the European Council.

Martin will also meet bilaterally with President of France Emmanuel Macron this afternoon.

Leaders will be briefed by Michel Barnier, the European Union negotiator, on the latest progress in Brexit talks.

There's plenty to talk about as my colleague Denis Staunton reports today.

He writes that Boris Johnson has reaffirmed his threat to walk away from talks with the European Union this week. “In a call with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday night, Mr Johnson expressed disappointment at the progress of the talks.”

But ahead of his departure today, Mr Martin said “time is running out to ensure that a deal can be in place before the end of the year”.

“I am urging the British side to engage meaningfully with the EU’s team to accelerate progress in the period ahead,” he said.

Best Reads

Miriam Lord writes about the record budget forgotten in record time.

Marie O'Halloran reports on Sinn Féin concerns that new legislation could result in the archive of the commission into mother and baby homes being sealed for 30 years.

Suzanne Lynch has the latest from the United States.

No surprise here: Online property searches up 50 per cent as interest in coastal cottages doubles.

Newton Emerson: DUP-Sinn Féin carve-up has its moments.

Playbook

Nphet will meet today to further consider the deteriorating national picture amid rising cases of Covid 19.

In the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varakdar will take parliamentary questions and there will be more speeches on Budget 2021. The Seanad is not sitting today but will sit on Friday. Find the full schedule here.

The Public Accounts committee will continue its consideration of the Fair Deal scheme while Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will speak on Brexit at the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Here is the full schedule,