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CITY TRIBUNE

New Covid-19 restrictions come into effect tonight

Enda Cunningham

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New measures to respond to the Covid-19 emergency have been announced by Government – including new income supports and closures of ‘non-essential retail outlets’ and gatherings outdoors to be limited to four people

Announcing the measures, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “These are unprecedented actions to respond to an unprecedented emergency.”

Restrictions announced a fortnight ago are being extended until April 19.

And from tonight at midnight, the following measures come into effect:

  • markets, casinos, bingo halls, libraries and other similar outlets are to shut
  • all hotels to limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons
  • all non-essential retail outlets are to close to members of the public and all other retail outlets are to implement physical distancing
  • all cafes and restaurants are to limit supply to take away food or delivery
  • all sporting events are cancelled, including those behind closed doors
  • all playgrounds and holiday/caravan parks will close
  • all places of worship are to restrict numbers entering at any one time to ensure adequate physical distancing
  • all organised social indoor and outdoor events of any size are not to take place

The Taoiseach said: “Gardai will increase interventions where venues are not in compliance with, or where groups of people are not adhering to recommended physical distancing.

“All household contacts of a suspect case (that is, a person who is awaiting a test or test result) should restrict movements until the test is reported negative or for 14 days since the onset of symptoms, whichever is shorter.

“Individuals should work from home unless attendance at workplace is absolutely essential.

“Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be no more than four persons, unless all are from the same household.

“All non-essential indoor visits to other persons’ homes should be avoided. All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided. All scheduled cruise ship travel will cease,” he said.

He added that the Government are raising the Covid Unemployment Payment to €350 a week.

“This is approximately 75% of average earnings in the sectors most affected, and compares favourably to what is being done in other countries. The first payments will be made on Friday.

“The Covid Illness Benefit will also increase to €350 per week and can be topped up by employers. This will be paid to people self-isolating.

“In order to encourage employers and companies badly affected by the Emergency to keep staff on the payroll, a wage subsidy scheme will be introduced to co-fund 70% of the cost of salaries up to a maximum of €38,000 a year. At a salary of €38,000 the subsidy will equate to €410 a week in take-home pay.

“The cost of this will be great. Many billions of euro in the coming months. But we can bear it and we will be able to pay it back as a nation. We do so willingly because it is the right thing to do and because we owe it to our fellow citizens.

“I believe that maintaining the link between employees and employers and companies will make it easier for us to bounce back when this is all over. We will keep our economic infrastructure intact. We will give businesses the best chance of making it through this.

“The self-employed will also be covered. I know the sacrifices so many of our self-employed have made to build up their businesses and practices and I know how worried they are now,” the Taoiseach said.

The Cabinet this morning approved the ‘Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Covid Bill’.

This legislation, for the duration of the Emergency, will:

  • freeze rents
  • prevent evictions
  • make it easier for health care professionals to re-register and return to work
  • enable former members of our Defence Forces to rejoin at the rank they left. We need you to serve your country once again

The Government also approved a framework agreement with the private hospitals. “They will operate effectively as public hospitals under Section 38 of the Health Act for the duration of the Emergency thus adding over 2,000 beds, nine laboratories, critical care capacity and thousands of staff to our health service,” said Mr Varadkar.

List of essential retailers:

  1. Retail and wholesale sale of food, beverages and newspapers in non-specialised and
    specialised stores;
  2. Retail sale of household consumer products necessary to maintain the safety and
    sanitation of residences and businesses;
  3. Pharmacies/Chemists and retailers providing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical or
    dispensing services;
  4. Opticians/Optometrists;
  5. Retail sale of selling medical and orthopaedic goods in specialised stores;
  6. Fuel stations and heating fuel providers;
  7. Retailers involved in the repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and
    related facilities (e.g. tyre sales and repairs);
  8. Retail sale of essential items for the health and welfare of animals, including animal
    feed and medicines, animal food, pet food and animal supplies including bedding;
  9. Laundries and Drycleaners;
  10. Banks, Post Offices and Credit Unions;
  11. Retail sale of safety supply stores (for e.g. work clothes, Personal Protective
    Equipment);
  12. Hardware stores, builders’ merchants and stores that provide hardware products
    necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment,
    supplies and tools essential for gardening/farming/agriculture;
  13. Retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for
    businesses;
  14. Retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for
    home.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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