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If you breach Covid-19 regulations in Carlow, Kilkenny or beyond you could face €2,500 fine or six months in prison

Cabinet approved a new bill last night

People could be fined €2,500 and sentenced to six months in prison for having a house party under new legislation to enforce Covid-19 restrictions.

The new bill was approved by Cabinet last night and will see Gardai given the power to issue fines to those found breaching health rules.

People who aren’t wearing a face mask on public transport or in shops, or those who travel beyond the five kilometre limit could face an on-the-spot fine of up to 500 euro.

For other offences like holding a house party, a graduated system of fines will apply, with the maximum being €2,500 and/or up to six months in prison for repeat offenders.

The new bill was approved following a meeting of Cabinet late last night and will now go before the Oireachtas for approval this week.

It’s not expected to take effect by the time Level 5 restrictions come into force.

New Cases …

It’s as 31 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed locally with Carlow and KIlkenny’s infection rates continuing to rise along with the rest of the country.

NPHET has reported 13 more coronavirus deaths and 1,269 across all 26 counties to midnight Monday.

Carlow’s 14-day incidence rate is 195 cases per 100-thousand population after 16 new cases reported yesterday.

Kilkenny’s rate for the past fortnight is up to 167 per 100,000 after the latest 15 incidences.

Both counties are still in the six best performing in the country despite the rising figures.

Contact Tracing …

Thousands of people who tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend will be asked to do their own contact tracing.

The HSE is to send a text to 2,500 people in the coming days to tell others they’ve been in close contact.

HSE contact tracers faced an unprecedented number of newly infected people and weren’t able to keep up with the demand for contact tracing from Friday until Sunday last weekend.

Those who tested positive over the weekend are to get a text message which will ask them to tell their close contacts to phone their GP.

The Irish Times reports a decision was made not to get in touch with those who tested positive for their close contacts as it would’ve just led to delay.

The papers says people over the age of 70, and schoolchildren are among the people who are affected by the backlog.

Its feared there may be up to 8,000 close contacts affected.

Schools …

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan says schools should still reopen after the midterm break noting “The wellbeing and general health of children, as well as obviously their educational attainment, and we’ve identified that as a core objective to try to protect, we think it fits with the evidence we have internationally in terms of transmission and what we’ve seen so far in terms of transmission data, it gives us reassurance in that regard, but we’ll continue to monitor that situation.”

However a local school principal says he doesn’t know if it’s safe to keep the schools open during the lockdown which is due to start at midnight tonight.

Teachers unions have been critical of the government decision to keep all the schools open as we enter Level Five restrictions with the ASTI saying it will ballot it’s members on possible strike action.

NPHET has repeatedly insisted that the risk of transmission among students is low if managed properly.

But Simon Lewis from Carlow Educate Together says he’s not sure how things will work out over the next six weeks saying “I guess we’re going to find out over the next number of weeks, you know, if we’re seeing a significant reduction in cases given that the only real variables out there are children going to school, I suppose we’ll find out if cases aren’t dropping, there’s a theory out there that children don’t spread the virus, that’s one sure fire way of testing it”.

He also says he doesn’t believe the public health officials who says that transmission rates are low in school settings noting “I think we probably do need is to have the same facilities that other frontline have like nurses & doctors that put themselves at risk every day like we are now we should have access to things like flu vaccines, proper PPE and stuff like that”.

And Mr Lewis adds that if teachers are now being classed as essential workers then they should be getting the same PPE as medical staff and health workers saying
“I don’t know the answer to it and, I mean, it’s within my own interest that the theory is right it’s that children don’t spread the virus but I’m somewhat sceptical of that being true but we’ll find out”.

Retail …

Retail Excellence says it’s a disaster that shops are being forced to close during what would be their busiest time of the year.

Level Five will take effect from midnight tonight and continue until December 1st.

Managing Director, Duncan Graham, says being closed for that length of time isn’t sustainable for many retailers.

Vaccine …

Nations and drug companies are being urged to put the patents for a Covid-19 vaccine in the public domain for the “good of humanity”.

Leading health economists says the pharmaceutical industry should make the science behind the treatments free for all to access.

They’ve outlined the dangers of countries acting in their own self-interest.