Welcome to Level Five: what does it all mean?
As of midnight last night, Irish life changed fundamentally for the following six weeks
Groups enjoy some last minute socialising in Dublin’s city centre before level 5 lockdown started at midnight. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/The Irish Times
As of midnight Wednesday, the Republic moved into Level 5 of the Government’s restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The restrictions are expected to be place for the next six weeks, meaning Irish life changes fundamentally from Thursday. Here we explain exactly what will be different.
First things first, one thing that – for now at least – will stay the same is schools and childcare facilities. These are to remain open, notwithstanding some disquiet from teachers and unions in relation to safety matters.
Non-contact training will continue for school aged children, outdoors in pods of 15. All other training activities should be individual only, with some exemptions.
Some good news is that the moratorium on evictions has been reinstated and that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme have been amended to provide further supports to businesses and employees who get laid off.
The Government said it was taking these steps to reflect the difficulties these restrictions place on individuals and families across the State, the risk of job losses and of poverty and homelessness.
Stay at home
But now comes the hard part. People are asked to stay at home and to work from home unless providing an essential service for which their physical presence is required. A list of these can be found on the Government’s website.
People are permitted to exercise, but only within a radius of 5km of their home. And yes, there are penalties for anyone found to be in breach of this.
That being said, there are some exemptions. Once again, these include those doing essential work and those who have “essential purposes”.
Essential purposes include shopping for – there’s that word again – essential items; travelling to and from work; attending medical appointments and collecting medicines and other health products.
Other exemptions include “vital family reasons” such as providing care to children, the elderly, or vulnerable people, and in particular for those who live alone. You are also allowed an exemption for farming purposes such as caring for animals.
Furthermore, there are exemptions for weddings and funerals at which up to 25 people are allowed to attend. The last exemption is for visiting a grave.
There should be no visits to other people’s homes or gardens. However, there will be the concept of an extended household, or support bubble, for certain people to support those at risk of social isolation and/or mental health risks.
No social or family gatherings should take place. However, it is possible to meet with one other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, including for exercise.
There will be no organised indoor or outdoor events, but essential retail and essential services will remain open. These include banks, pharmacies, launderettes and so on. A full list can be found on the Government’s website.
Public transport will operate at 25 per cent capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work. School transport is unaffected.
Professional, elite sports and inter-county Gaelic games, horseracing and greyhound racing can continue behind closed doors.
Bars, cafes, restaurants and wet pubs may provide take-away and delivery services only. Wet pubs in Dublin remain closed. Hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs may remain open, but only to support provision of essential services.
Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to “continue to exercise personal judgment”, but it is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.
When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain two metres distance from others and to wash hands on returning home. It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.
Religious services will be available online. Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions will remain closed, while libraries will be available for online services only.
Outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks will remain open with protective measures, but visits to long term residential care facilities, like nursing homes, are suspended with the exception of visits required for critical and compassionate circumstances.