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Simon Harris thanks Irish people for huge sacrifice ahead of new restrictions

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is expected to call for further restrictions on movement.

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Minister for Health Simon Harris (left) (Aidan Crawley/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris (left) (Aidan Crawley/PA)

Minister for Health Simon Harris (left) (Aidan Crawley/PA)

Health Minister Simon Harris has thanked Irish people for their sacrifices ahead of new restrictions expected to be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) met on Tuesday morning to consider issuing further advice on restricting public gatherings.

It is expected non-essential businesses such as cafes, restaurants and other sectors regarded as non-essential may be asked to close with further restrictions on public outside gatherings.

It comes after large numbers of people gathered at beaches and parks over the weekend and county councils closed areas as people were not complying with social distancing.

Mr Harris said: “The public health emergency team has just concluded and they made a series of recommendations and I will be bringing them to the cabinet meeting this morning and Government will make announcements accordingly later.

“There is a massive national effort under way in our country to keep our people safe and to keep our people well.

“Irish people are making huge sacrifices in communities right across the country and I want to thank them for that.

“What Government wants to do is support them in their efforts and to make sure we can keep our people safe and well.”

Education Minister Joe McHugh said schools are due to remain closed until at least March 29, but will not be opening immediately after that.

He said there should be further confirmation on Tuesday or Wednesday of the extension of the school closures.

Speaking on Galway Bay FM on Tuesday morning, he added: “My commitment to the students and for the students who are maybe having their breakfast this morning and maybe getting ready to study and really, really putting in such an effort – my commitment to them, and the department’s commitment is: we want to make those exams happen.

“Obviously we are going to be influenced and directed by the health experts. We don’t know where we are going to be in terms of the peak of this virus.

“I think we owe it to those young people who are studying and putting in the effort to see this through to try to have these exams this year. When I say this year, I mean the dates that are defined for this year. That’s what we are working towards.”

The chief executive of the HSE warned that the health system will come under stress “like we have never seen before” as the Covid-19 crisis deepens.

Ireland has recorded two more deaths among people who tested positive for Covid-19. They were males in the east of the country.

There have been six fatalities related to the infection in the Republic, the Department of Health said. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,125.

On Tuesday, HSE boss Paul Reid tweeted: “Soon, our health system will be under stress like we have never seen before.

“We’ve been preparing 24 x 7. This involves using hotels, temporary & private hospitals & other locations.

“The less sick wont need a hospital. We do care, so please stick with us.”

The cabinet will meet on Tuesday to consider updated recommendations on tackling Covid-19 from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

On Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that while some members of the public had not been complying with social distancing measures, he would not bow to political pressure to tighten restrictions and would only act on expert advice.

He has been facing calls from the leaders of opposition parties to tighten restrictions.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called for all non-essential businesses to close, while Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said more “severe restrictions” needed to be imposed for social distancing.

The current measures, which include the closure of schools and colleges, creches and pubs, are due to expire on March 29 but may be extended.

PA