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People already in holiday homes must remain there, says Garda Commissioner

Drew Harris said travel to holiday homes is not an essential journey and gardai will turn people back.

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Garda/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Garda/PA)

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (Garda/PA)

People who have already travelled to their holiday homes for the bank holiday weekend must stay there, the Garda Commissioner has said.

Health Minister Simon Harris signed beefed-up regulations on Tuesday night that will give gardai the power to issue specific fines for breaches and potentially detain people who are refusing to self-isolate.

Drew Harris said new laws to enforce compliance with coronavirus restrictions will end at midnight on Easter Sunday.

It comes amid reports of increasing numbers of people out in the streets and fears that people may be tempted to disregard social distancing rules over the Easter holiday.

Speaking in Co Kildare on Wednesday, Mr Harris said:  “If you are already in a holiday home then you need to stay there as that is your place of residence.”

He asked people to refrain from travelling to their holiday homes this weekend.

Mr Harris added: “If you are thinking of travelling there, then don’t. That is not an essential journey. So if you have travelled to your holiday home – that is where you are now. That is your place of residence and that will be regarded as where you should be.

“I want to reiterate, a journey to a holiday home is not an essential journey and we will be able to turn you back.”

He said there will be 50 checkpoints around the country over the weekend but they expect most people to comply.

Mr Harris said if people are stopped by gardai and found to be in breach of the regulations, they would not be arrested immediately.

He said: “There is no on-the-spot fines. The first port of call would not be arrest, it would be taking a member’s name and address.

“We hope to see very few requirements to use the regulations and we will rely on the vast majority of society to comply with the measures.

“We want to be proportionate, and provide a graduated response. Everyone will be given the opportunity to comply to the regulations and they will be given the opportunity to comply.

“They may be asked to return home, they may be asked to change their behaviour, whatever that is. But people will be given the opportunity to comply, before we go anywhere near enforcement powers.”

Mr Harris said spit guards have been provided to members of the force to protect them from being spat on by members of the public.

He added: “As part of our response, we have introduced these spit guards for the duration of the crisis and they will be used very sparingly. They are a further option in terms of personal protective equipment.”

Deputy Garda Commissioner John Twomey said: “There has been very good compliance with the travel restrictions and we want to thank the public for this. However, it is vital that this continues over the coming days and over the weekend. This will save lives.

“In particular, we would ask people who are thinking of travelling to parks, natural beauty spots or holiday homes outside of the 2km limit not to do so. We are sending them a clear message that if they are stopped at a checkpoint, they will be turned back.”

PA