IRELAND IS to remain under Level 5 lockdown until at least 5 March, a Cabinet sub-committee agreed last night.
According to The Irish Times, the Government will this morning announce that Level 5 will remain in place until at least 5 March, and there will be extra restrictions with regards to travel in an attempt to further stem the spread of the virus.
Under new plans, passengers into Ireland from abroad who do not have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure will undergo mandatory quarantine at their own expense and may have to pay a fine.
They will be quarantined in a designated hotel at their own expense for at least 5 days: if, on the fifth day, they test positive for the virus, they will be held for a further 14 days.
Anyone who does arrive into Ireland without a negative test, which has been the rules for several weeks, could face fines or a prison sentence under the new restrictions.
Passengers who do have a negative test must still restrict their movements or self-isolate for a further 14 days regardless of whether their test is negative-- while this has always been advised, this will soon become law.
This will also apply to passengers from abroad who enter the Republic via Northern Ireland, and authorities on both sides of the border have agreed to share data in relation to passengers to help slow the spread-- the first time this has happened.
A ban on travel from South Africa and Brazil, where new variants of the disease have been discovered, is also on the cards, and Irish people who are caught breaking existing Level 5 rules may be issued with increased fines.
Schools, shops, cinemas and all non-essential services will remain closed until at least 5 March, although the Government is fighting to open special schools sooner, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
The Irish Times reports that an estimated 2,000- 2,500 people in Ireland have flown to Spain in the month of January, some of them holidaymakers-- the new rules would see them forced to quarantine on their return under threat of fines or prison.
Ireland had been hit with the highest rates of transmission in the world following an explosion of cases at Christmas; now the incidence rate has dropped, but the number of patients hospitalised and in ICU with the virus has resulted in the health service being under serious strain.
Yesterday, a further 7 deaths and 1372 new cases were announced.
The Government is expected to make an official announcement on Level 5 later today.