The Government is expected to introduce a system of graduated fines before the end of the month for breaches of Covid-19 guidelines, including failure to wear face marks when required and undertaking non-essential journeys.
The Cabinet Sub-Committee on Covid-19 endorsed the recommendation made by National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) for an on-the-spot fine system for breaches of rules.
No figures were given but the fines are expected to be similar to those in the UK, which are €70 (£60) for a first offence and higher for subsequent offences.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will work with departmental officials to produce a memo for Cabinet either next week or the following. It is expected the new system could be in operation by the end of the month.
Separately, the Cabinet agreed to endorse the European ‘traffic light’ system for international travel during the pandemic, expected to be formally agreed at a summit meeting in Brussels next week.
International passengers will be able to bypass quarantine requirements if they take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, and possibly an antigen test, when departing and entering EU States.
If agreed by Cabinet next Tuesday, passengers arriving from ‘Green’ countries (those with less than 25 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population) will not need to quarantine nor take tests. However, for those entering and leaving orange or red countries, they will be required to take a PCR test three days before leaving the country.
However, the onus will be on passengers to organise and pay for the tests, which can cost as much as €200 each.
There was no discussion at all about extending the upcoming mid-term break for schools, with Government sources on Friday night strongly talking down the possibility.
While acknowledging the matter was mentioned at Cabinet last Monday, and had also been discussed by Nphet, the sources said there had been no substantive discussion on the issue and the intention, as of now, was to continue with a one-week break at mid-term.
Meanwhile, Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the situation with Covid-19 was continuing to worsen, as Friday saw a new five-month high for new cases.
A further 617 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). This brings to 40,703 the total number of cases since the pandemic started.
Nphet also reported a further five deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,821.
Less than one in five of the new cases (123 out of 617) were in Dublin, the smallest proportion in recent months. There were also 107 cases in Cork, 42 in Meath, 36 in Kerry, 35 in Galway with the remaining 274 cases located across 21 counties.
One-third of cases were associated with outbreaks or close contacts of a confirmed case, and 72 cases involved community transmission, meaning the origin is not clear.
Some 73 per cent of cases were under 45 years of age.
The 671 cases reported on Friday is, by a slight margin, the highest daily number since late April.
Dr Holohan said the profile of the disease continued to deteriorate. “We are continuing to see a high number of daily cases. It is vital that we interrupt the transmission of the virus now.”
There have been an additional 32 hospitalisations and eight ICU admissions in the past 24 hours, he pointed out.