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16.58 23 Mar 2020


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Opposition parties have called for a more severe lockdown of the country.

Party leaders have been meeting this afternoon to discuss the next steps in tackling the spread of COVID-19.

Pictures of large crowds gathered in public places over the weekend have led to a backlash today and could lead to further restrictions on public gatherings before the week is out.

It led to Wicklow County Council announcing the closure of the Bray to Greystones cliff walk today following concerns over social distancing.

However,  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suggested a full lockdown of the country is not the best way to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said after the large gatherings of people at the weekend, more restrictions are needed.

He said: "We've evidence of other gatherings, in terms of at resorts or elsewhere or queuing for chips in large numbers.

"So I think more severe restrictions are needed in terms of public gatherings."

Regional breakdown

Mr Martin also called for more detail on the regional breakdown of cases to be given.

He says this could allow for more accurate quarantining of certain parts of the country and a change in people's behaviour.

He said: "People would be a bit more conscious of the situation in their locality and would behave accordingly and I think that's important.

"But also in terms of staff at a given institution, in terms of people visiting that institution, they need to know."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called for a full shut-down of all but non-essential services as the government awaits further advice from doctors.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald says there need to be more immediate restrictions.

She said: "Now is the moment to take the next step, and that, in my strong view, is to close all non-essential business.

"Of course, that will mean more job losses, so it is also important that a proper and adequate income support scheme is put in place as a matter of urgency.

Support for workers

She added that more supports need to be offered to those in vulnerable parts of the workforce.

Ms McDonald said: "It's intolerable and it's unacceptable that working people are being left with so much risk.

"People who work on construction sites, in factories, in call centres right across the island know that when they go to work it's not safe because it's simply not possible in so many cases to practice safe physical distancing."

The government has been speaking with local authorities and the National Parks and Wildlife Service today and will make a decision on further restrictions after advice from the Chief Medical Officer, which is due tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Mayors in cities Dublin, Cork and Galway have also called for a lockdown across the country to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Reporting by Seán Defoe

Main image: Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media on the plinth at Leinster House today. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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