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Covid-19: Cabinet sub-committee agrees to introduce fines system for rule breakers

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covid-19:-cabinet-sub-committee-agrees-to-introduce-fines-system-for-rule-breakers

The Cabinet sub-committee for Covid-19 has asked the Department of Health and Department of Justice to draft legislation for a system of fines for people who breach Covid-19 restrictions, it is understood.

The “proportionate system” would be along the lines of that already operating in the UK though fines would not be as high.

The sub-committee in charge of the Government’s coronavirus strategy also discussed the EU traffic light system – a coordinated plan for EU citizens visiting other countries. It is understood that there was no discussion on extending the length of the midterm break for school children.

The subcommittee met on Friday to consider the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

The State’s public health team has not recommended a move to higher levels of restrictions after it met on Thursday, it has emerged.

However, two senior sources confirmed Nphet remained seriously concerned about coronavirus infections and has told Government that the situation must be closely monitored, but it stopped short of recommending further restrictions.

The entire State this week joined Donegal and Dublin and entered Level 3 on the Government’s five-level coronavirus alert system. It has meant new restrictions on everyday life including on travel, indoor dining, weddings and funerals.

The Government on Monday controversially rejected a recommendation from Nphet to move to the most severe level, Level 5, amid a public row between the Government and its public health advisers.

On Thursday night, one source said there was “nothing too dramatic” at the latest meeting of Nphet and that at least another 10 days will be needed to see if the current restrictions are reducing the spread of infections.

This is despite Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan saying on Wednesday that he was more concerned about how Covid-19 is spreading in the State now than he was when the recommendation to move to Level 5 was made to Government.

“All of the major indicators of this disease have gotten worse – our concern is getting greater and faster,” he said.

A letter has been sent to Government from Nphet and will be considered at a Cabinet sub-committee on Friday alongside plans for enhanced enforcement of Level 3 measures including potential fines for those who breach travel restrictions.

‘Very worrying’

There was one additional death related to the virus and 506 further cases of the disease reported by the Department of Health on Thursday.

In Northern Ireland on Friday, there were a further 1,080 cases of the disease reported. And in the last seven days, 5,272 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the North, with the total number of cases rising to 18,190.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told British prime minister Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland needed financial support to fight a “very worrying” increase in virus cases.

First Minister Arlene Foster warned that Northern Ireland was in a “grave and serious situation” and that the North’s Ministers were facing “some of the toughest decisions” they have ever had to make.

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