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Entire Cabinet self-isolating after Minister for Health feels unwell

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The entire Cabinet has been told to self-isolate and the Dáil has been shut down following Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly saying he felt unwell this afternoon.

Mr Donnelly told colleagues he was feeling unwell on Tuesday afternoon and was advised to seek medical advice and take a test for Covid-19.

He had attended the full meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday morning and also had appeared and spoke at the press conference at which the Government outlined its new Covid-19 plan.

All other members of the Cabinet, including Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, have been told to self-isolate as a result and as a precautionary measure, the Dáil has been shut down for the remainder of the day.

However, the move was news to at least some Cabinet members. The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was told while being interviewed on RTÉ radio, while another Cabinet minister said that the move was “news to me”.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan was already isolating at home after a member of his household began to feel unwell.

Earlier, Labour leader Alan Kelly claimed there was an “inherent contradiction” in the Government’s new, five-level coronavirus plan launched on Tuesday, which he described as “Orwellian”.

The plan involves a scale of restrictions from Level 1 to Level 5, with Level 5 being the most severe.

The entire country is on Level 2, although Dublin has a number of extra conditions because of high numbers of coronavirus cases in the capital.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Kelly said there was now a situation “where we have Dublin at two and a bit, that they’re sort of getting a yellow card”.

“If they behave themselves in a short space of time,” they may get back to the same level as everyone else, he added.

But during testy exchanges, Mr Martin insisted the new roadmap was clear. The plan imposes additional restrictions in Dublin on home visits, indoor gatherings and care home visits, while so-called “wet pubs”, which do not serve food, will remain closed in the capital.

“There’s no such thing as 2.5. It simply does not exist,” Mr Martin said, adding that the only deviation from the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was on “wet” pubs and allowing 5,000 spectators at outdoor events.

He said the Government did not get advice from NPHET to move Dublin to Level Three. Ministers accepted its advice “in respect of Dublin today” and NPHET would meet again on Thursday and “could give other advices”.

During Leaders’ Questions following the launch of the roadmap, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Taoiseach and his Government of “failing in your responsibilities” because, she said, a proper Covid-19 testing and tracing system was not in place months after it had been promised.

She accused Mr Martin of “making it up as you go along” and said that months after the Government pledged to do 100,000 tests a week this was still not in place, and it was “central” to dealing with Covid-19.

Ms McDonald said the plan was not worth the paper it was written on so long as full testing and tracing was not in place. She said that “of 59 pages, one of them addresses testing and tracing”, arguing it was the “most central part”.

She said “either you get testing and tracing right and you do it quickly or we will be consigned to a yo-yo effect of further restrictions and even lockdowns”.

When opposition TDs intervened as he was speaking Mr Martin told the Sinn Féin benches to “stop interrupting” and he accused Ms McDonald of being partisan.

Social Democrats leader Róisín Shortall said anyone seeking clarity about the five levels of risk in the roadmap would be “bitterly disappointed” as she accused the Government of effectively ignoring international travel and putting it on the long finger until the middle of October.

She also asked what the specific criteria were for counties moving from one level to another. Ms Shortall said that, on the first day of the announcement, the Government “starts talking about a two and a bit level”.

The Taoiseach said he agreed “ 100 per cent” about the centrality of testing tracing and insisted that was in the plan.

He said: “It’s not good enough to attack people as being woeful and trying to belittle the very strong measures that have been taken” on including the serial testing in nursing homes and meat plants.

Mr Kelly called on the Government to clarify whether Dublin was at Level Two or Level Three of the six-month plan, and he said it was a “glaring omission” that the document was not “elderly proofed” or proofed to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities or those who were vulnerable.

He and Ms Shortall called on the Taoiseach to clarify where the Government deviated from NPHET on its advice and Mr Martin said the only difference was in relation to wet pubs and the attendance at outdoor events including sports stadiums.

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