Check against delivery
Good evening everyone.
Less than a week ago, I stood outside Government Buildings here and warned that the Covid 19 virus was regaining its foothold across Europe and across our country and that the threat was growing.
As part of that message, the Government and I had to announce new restrictions on Dublin city and county in the full knowledge that those restrictions were going to make life, and the process of earning a living, much more difficult for many people.
The Government made that decision because our most basic and most fundamental responsibility is the safety of each and every citizen.
I made it clear then, and I make it clear again now, we will not hesitate to take whatever decisions are necessary to protect lives and public health.
Tonight, based on the information and advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team, the Government has decided that all of County Donegal must now join Dublin at Level 3 of the Government’s Framework for Restrictive Measures.
Again for a period of three weeks up to 16th October.
As with Dublin, the Government will be putting in place additional business supports for those affected by these additional restrictions.
In Donegal’s case, the new status will include all of the same restrictions as Dublin city and county, with one major difference.
Wet pubs in Dublin stayed closed because the pattern of infection had not improved sufficiently over the preceding period to allow them to reopen.
In Donegal, in line with the Government’s new framework, these pubs will operate on the same basis as restaurants and pubs that serve food.
Namely, they can remain open for customers drinking outdoors only, to a maximum of fifteen people.
Tonight’s decision is based on, frankly, very worrying data provided by NPHET, which I want to share with you.
Over the last seven days, Donegal’s seven day incidence rate of infection is more than anywhere else in the country.
Clusters are growing throughout the county, and as one example, we have established tonight that in one local community, Stranorlar LEA, we are looking at an infection rate of 336 per 100,000.
With those sorts of numbers, we clearly have no choice other than to act and act decisively.
My point in identifying one community in particular is to demonstrate how quickly this thing can escalate;
How quickly a community outbreak can threaten a full scale crisis.
This is no one individual or community’s fault. There can be no stigma attached to being a victim of this virus. It doesn’t care who you are, or where you’re from. It just wants to spread and will take every chance it gets.
And the growth of the virus isn’t limited to Donegal and Dublin.
The information provided to us this evening by NPHET tells us that nationwide, we have seen a deterioration over the course of the last week:
- The number of cases per day, the 7-day and 14-day incident rates, and the numbers in hospital and ICU have all increased.
- The number of deaths, while still thankfully low, is continuing to increase.
- NPHET and the Government are monitoring very closely the situation in Louth, Waterford, Wicklow, Kildare, Cork and Galway.
I believe that we need to be completely honest with each other about where we are with this virus, and we need to have challenging conversations in the time ahead.
We will be having those conversations at a national level, and we need these conversations to be taking place in every single home in our nation.
Because the Irish Government on its own can’t stop the virus spreading.
It is only we as a people, acting together and holding firm in a spirit of solidarity that can slow its destructive spread.
Last week I announced additional restrictions on Dublin and tonight it is Donegal. But if we’re honest, there is every chance that we could have similar announcements in other areas.
Each and every one of us needs to reflect on that.
Each and every one of us literally has the power to decide, in our own lives and in the decisions that we make, whether this virus is going to be given the space to grow.
Because while there is every chance that other areas will have to move into Level 3, there is nothing inevitable about it.
If we all decide to stick to the basic advice around hand hygiene, cough etiquette and social distancing,
If we all decide to stick to the rules in force in our county,
If we all decide that we’re not going to go house parties,
If we all decide to limit our social contacts over the period ahead,
If we all decide to take responsibility and do our best with this, there is nothing inevitable about escalations and in fact we will start to see movement in the other direction and a return for the whole country to Level 2.
This is how we will protect our most vulnerable, how we will keep as many people as possible in work and how we will keep our schools open.
The Irish people have already done so much and I wish I was bringing better news this evening, but that said, we can and we will get through this.
All of us, together, deciding to do the right thing by one another.