The Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien received Cabinet approval on Wednesday to publish a Bill to ban evictions for the period of the Level 5 restrictions.
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin described the Bill as “welcome but weak” and said his party would on Thursday table amendments in an attempt to also ban evictions when there are any kind of restrictions on the number of visitors allowed into a home or when there are county by county lockdowns in future.
Another three deaths from Covid-19 were recorded on Wednesday, along with 1,167 new cases of the virus as the country prepares to enter the first day of Level 5 restrictions.
From Thursday all non-essential businesses will close and people will be forbidden from travelling more than 5km from their homes for non-essential reasons. Unlike the first lockdown, however, schools will remain open.
The latest figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) show cases are continuing to rise sharply across the country as are hospitalisations.
Some 27 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalised over the 24-hour period up to 2pm, bringing the total number in hospital to 314. There are 34 patients in intensive care.
The 14-day incidence rate for the virus stands at 291 per 100,000 people. Cavan has by far the highest incidence rate at 1,013, followed by Meath at 652.
Dublin’s incidence rate continues to fall and now stands at 242, with 263 new cases recorded in the county.
The latest figures bring the number of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland to 1,868 and confirmed cases to 53,422.
“We are facing a big challenge, but we have faced this challenge before, and that means we know how to suppress this virus, by following the public health advice in everything we do,” chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said.
“Everyone needs to stay at home, other than for essential reasons. Follow the public health advice and treat everyone who you come into contact with as though they are a close contact of someone with Covid-19 – keep your distance, avoid meeting others.”
There has been another sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 clusters in primary and secondary schools. Last week there were 46 new outbreaks compared with 25 the previous week and 12 the week before.
There have now been a total of 118 clusters in schools. A cluster is defined as two or more linked cases of the virus in a location.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre, which compiled the figures, said they included both children and staff, and they did not necessarily mean that transmission of the virus occurred within the schools.
The HSE said the transmission rate in schools was 2.3 per cent, significantly lower than the rate in the general community which stands at more than 7 per cent.
The spread of Covid-19 in the community is translating into increased case numbers in schools, but the number of cases is not being amplified within the schools themselves.
Perhaps responding to complaints from teachers this week, the HSE aims to have strengthened virus control measures in place by the time the schools return from next week’s midterm break.
The Government published a Bill which would allow gardaí to issue escalating fines to those found breaching Covid-19 regulations. The fines will range from €1,000 for hosting or travelling to a house party and up to €500 for failing to wear a face mask in certain places or travelling beyond 5km.
The new regulations come into effect today but the penalties for breaching them are unlikely to become law until early next week as the Bill has to be debated and passed by the Oireachtas.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin expressed frustration at the news that the HSE was asking thousands of people infected with Covid-19 to inform their close contacts themselves due to the contact tracing system becoming overwhelmed last week.