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Covid-19: State restrictions set to tighten as Nphet warns of many more deaths

Inside Politics: Martin confirms extension of Ireland’s third lockdown to March 5th

Good morning,

Human beings are not a hibernating species, but you’d be tempted all the same. Yesterday the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, confirmed what everyone knew was coming: Ireland’s third lockdown is being extended, this time for six weeks, until March 5th.

Additional restrictions are to be introduced, with mandatory 14-day quarantine, enforceable by law in either a State-designated hotel or at home for incoming travellers.

The tightest restrictions are reserved for travellers from Brazil and South Africa, where new strains of the coronavirus have originated.


Enforcement of existing regulations will be stepped up, with additional checkpoints near ports and airports to nab those taking unnecessary journeys, and within five km of the Border.

There were heavy signals a more general hotel-based quarantine for all travellers may be on the cards in the coming weeks. Not surprisingly, even though the moves had been well-flagged in advance, the news dominates the front pages today.

“Backlash feared as new travel rules ‘do not go far enough’”, says the Independent.

“No guarantee lockdown will end on March 5th,” says the Examiner

Our lead story is here.

The announcements came on the day the country passed a grim milestone – 3,000 deaths of people with Covid, with 90 reported yesterday. Although that is people who died with Covid-19, and not necessarily from Covid-19, it is still a shocking number.

In the UK, it is worse – the front pages of all the British papers report the horrifying number there: 100,000 deaths (for comparison, the population of the Republic is about one-thirteenth of the UK). Globally, the number of cases has now topped 100 million.

And yet, it was not all bad news yesterday. New case numbers in the State were fewer than 1,000 for the first time since Christmas Eve.

Models from Nphet suggest new cases will continue to tumble in the coming weeks, with the most optimistic projections suggesting daily case numbers could be down to as low as a couple of hundred a day by the end of February.

Between now and then, though, Nphet is warning there will be many more deaths. The worst of the third wave may be passing.

But it will extract a fearful price.

There are lots of related reports on our news pages, including on the latest death toll and the (slightly better) prospects of reopening the schools.

Jack Horgan-Jones's guide to the new restrictions is here, and Naomi O'Leary reports from Brussels on the delays to the supply of vaccines.

Analysis of yesterday's announcements is here, and Miriam Lord's take is here.

The Irish Times view is here.

Best reads

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Response from former taoiseach Enda Kenny to Mary Lou McDonald's call for a Border poll yesterday.

Kathy Sheridan says now is not the time for a Border poll.

Gerry Moriarty's analysis of the mother and baby homes report published in the North yesterday.


The Dáil is only sitting two days a week (both in the Convention Centre) so this week’s business gets under way at 10am in the shape of a Bill to amend the Constitution, tabled by Independent Donegal TD Thomas Pringle in Private Members’ time.

Pringle’s Bill seeks a referendum to amend the Constitution to insert a clause obliging the State to realise economic, social and cultural rights and make them justiciable – ie, the Government could be sued in the courts for its failure to vindicate those rights. It’s the sort of thing oppositions like, and governments don’t.

Leaders’ Questions follow at noon, followed by a number of pieces of Government business, before the Dáil adjourns at the civilised hour of 6pm.

Full schedule, along with links to the explanatory memorandum for Pringle's Bill, is here.

Today's committee meetings, all marked as private, are here.

The Independent Scientific Advocacy Group, which is pushing for a zero-Covid approach, is holding a press conference at noon. With the growing popularity for the zero option among the Opposition, there is likely to be quite a bit of political interest in this.

And if it's windbagging you're after, there's a festival of it going on every evening. Expect some especially gaseous emissions this evening.