The Irish Government has unveiled its blueprint for living with Covid-19.

The Cabinet signed off on the medium-term plan for living with coronavirus, which includes different levels of restrictions, ranging from one to five.

Tighter restrictions have also been announced for Dublin, which has seen a continuous rise of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Every county will remain at level two, however the capital will be subjected to a series of additional measures, including a requirement for pubs that do not serve food to remain closed when those in the rest of the country open next week.

The new plan for restrictions will come into effect from midnight on Tuesday.

The plan is broken into five alert levels and will be used for the next six months.

At level two, crowds of 200 will be allowed to attend sporting events at stadiums that have capacity for at least 5,000.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the extra restrictions the Government was announcing for the capital related to keeping the “wet” pubs closed when the rest reopened around the country on September 21.

From left, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly
From left, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly (Julien Behal/PA)

He said people in Dublin would also not be able to attend sporting events in the same numbers permitted in the state’s other 25 counties.

A maximum of six people from one household is permitted to visit another household under the new rules in Dublin.

However, the current level allows people to have gatherings in their homes and gardens of six people from no more than three other households in the rest of the country.

“We must continue to live with the reality that Covid-19 is potentially deadly, causes long-term illness, and we must limit the spread,” Mr Martin said.

“When the vaccine is available we will move quickly to implement a widespread vaccination programme, however I want people to understand that even before then, we can go much further in opening up economic, social and cultural life in our country.

“This is a plan which gives clarity about each of our responsibilities and how different situations and sectors will be handled.

“It includes concrete measures which address both well established and emerging issues.

“It shows how we can limit the impact of the virus while keeping our schools open, protecting and expanding employment, reopening services and supporting social and cultural activity.”

Mr Martin described the plan as “broad and comprehensive”.

He added it has three core pillars: protecting health, strengthening employment and supporting communities.

“Underpinning this is a new approach to the ongoing management of the Covid response and clarity for people about what will happen in different scenarios,” Mr Martin explained.

“Protecting public health remains an absolute clarity. The plan sets out the clear public health guidance which we should all follow.

“We must never forget the fact that the virus is still here and each of us has a personal responsibility to try to limit its spread.

“This new phase involves the introduction of a new framework for restrictive measures.

“There will be a heightened system of monitoring and enforcement to guide this rapid and targeted response to outbreaks and we will move decisively to address the fact that there are other health concerns which must be addressed.”

He said the current Covid-19 cases in Dublin are “very worrying”.

Appealing to residents in Dublin, he said: “Rising rates of infection can be reversed by concerted public action, and by all this adhering to the guidance and taking personal responsibility.”

He also said the Government has decided to “broadly support” the European Commission proposals on travel.

A new group chaired by the secretary general of the Taoiseach’s department, will oversee advice from the National Emergency Public Health Team (Nphet).

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said Dublin was not being pitted against the rest of the country.

“This isn’t about Dublin versus anywhere else,” he said.

“Moving from level two to level three has a serious impact on jobs, it has a serious impact on how we can live our lives.”

The Health Minister said Nphet was urging people in Dublin to keep gatherings limited to people from just one extra household.

“We’re all watching what’s going on in Dublin, the people of Dublin understand that the situation is escalating very, very quickly and people in Dublin, I think, welcome the public health doctors providing this advice,” he said.

It comes as Green Party leader and Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan restricts his movements, as a member of his household awaits a Covid-19 test.

He attended the Cabinet meeting via teleconference on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Cabinet sub-committee met acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn to discuss the final details of the plan.

The latest coronavirus figures from Nphet showed 208 positive cases, of which 108 were in Dublin.

No new deaths were reported.

Dr Glynn said Nphet has decided to reduce the period of isolation from 14 to 10 days for confirmed cases from the onset of symptoms.

“In addition, it has been agreed that nasal swabs are an acceptable alternative to nasopharyngeal swab for use in children in the community,” he said.

“This will hopefully make testing a simpler process for children going forward.

“Covid-19 is an evolving pandemic and Nphet is committed to adapting advice and guidelines based on emerging evidence.”