Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.09 20 Mar 2020


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The bill granting the Government sweeping new powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic have been passed by the Dáil and the Seanad.

The Health Preservation and other Emergency Measures Bill give authorities the power to detain people who refuse to self-isolate.

The Government now also has the power to order people to remain indoors in hard-hit areas and to shut down mass gatherings.

The legislation also gives legal effect to the new social welfare supports for people impacted by the crisis.

The bill was passed without a vote in the Dáil last night and has now passed the Seanad as well.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Garda Commissioner Drew Harris inspects the 319 new Gardaí who are today leaving Templemore for front-line duty, 19-03-2020. Image: Mark Condren/PA Wire/PA Images

National effort

It comes as the Government stepped up its warnings on the importance of social distancing in combatting the spread of the virus.

This morning, HSE chief Paul Reid warned families to continue observing the distancing guidelines on Mother’s Day this Sunday.

On The Pat Kenny Show, the Health Minister Simon Harris said people need to take social distancing much more seriously.

Speaking the Seanad later on, he said the next few weeks will require effort from everyone.

"I met a leader in intensive care the other day," he said. "One of our senior consultants in intensive care."

"She said to me, doctors will save hundreds of lives during this pandemic but, she said, the people of Ireland can save thousands.

"We can save thousands."

Coronavirus COVID-19 The Tánaiste Simon Coveney speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet Subcommittee on Covid-19, 16-03-2020. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

“Lifeline”

Also speaking in the Seanad today, the Tánaiste Simon Coveney said people who are not taking the guidelines seriously should be called out.

“We need, through parents, through families, through peer groups and through communities, to confront people who are not taking this seriously,” he said.

“Ask them the question, ‘if you have an option to throw a lifeline to a loved one in a vulnerable group who may be drowning, will you do it?’”

President Michael D Higgins will now be asked to sign the legislation into law.

Social distancing

The HSE has published a list of things people should do to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.

The social distancing guidelines include:

  • Keep a space of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between you and other people
  • Reducing interactions with people outside the workplace and home
  • Reducing the number of people you meet every day
  • Avoiding communal sleeping areas
  • Avoiding crowded places
  • Working from home if possible

People are warned not to shake hands or make close contact where possible.

Main image shows the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris inspecting the 319 new Gardaí who are today leaving Templemore for front-line duty, 19-03-2020. Image:  Mark Condren/PA Wire/PA Images

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