Minister Helen McEntee at the opening of the Slane Men's Shed last year.

McEntee: 'Level 4 a possibility but not inevitable'

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she completely understands the fears and trepidation of the public as the possibility of Level 4 restrictions is mooted but said the move up to more prohibitive measures "was not inevitable".

"Is it a possibility? The answer is yes, of course it is," the Meath East TD told Radio 1 Drivetime's Sarah McInerney this afternoon.

"If figures keep going in the direction, but we decided last night, not to move everybody to Level 4 to actually enhance what we have at Level 3 and we didn't do that, just for the sake of it to bide time before we go to Level 4.

"We did that because we're trying to bring this under control. And what we've been told and what the chief medical officer has said is that that this is not spreading within the community but within people's homes, not necessarily in shops where somebody might go in on their own, take up a few bits and leave. But where you come to a person's home.

"You know, you might start off sitting outside, it gets cold you come inside. Inevitably, you might end up staying for a lot longer than you ever intended to, but more so it's not really the one person that's going into another person's home. It's the three or four or the five or six the larger numbers that we've seen, which are then turning into much bigger gatherings, and unfortunately, that has contributed over the last number of weeks to an increase in numbers across the country now.

"And that's why we're asking people not to visit other homes. But, you know, and I understand that it's very difficult, but not everybody is applying to the rules, and that's why we have to apply this to everybody."

Minister McEntee - a former junior minister with responsibility for older people was asked if she felt the new beefed up Level 3 measures and fears of an escalation to Level 4 were worrying for those people who had cocooned themselves away for months.

"I fully accept why people are upset, and I fully accept that there are those who have applied the letter of the law. Absolutely.

"They have only a limited number of people into their homes, they've restricted their movements they've kept within a small circle. And there's a lot of people who have done that and there's a lot of people at the moment are looking and saying, but 'why are we being tarred with the same brush fire we've been asked to apply a different standard when other people aren't'. And I understand that, but it's very difficult to then say, you know, how do you apply that. How do you only apply it to certain houses to certain people to certain age groups. It's just not possible, you have to apply it a uniform way so that it applies to everybody."

Ms McEntee said she believed the GAA championships should go ahead this weekend despite the worrying rise in figures but acknowledged how sporting occasions in recent weeks had played their part in the rise of Covid-19 cases.

"So, I think it can go ahead... but I think we need to be very honest about what's happened in the last number of weeks. Unfortunately I think what we've seen happen before and after matches has contributed to numbers increasing in the last while so I do support matches going ahead, but they must go ahead behind closed doors and I think the GA needs to make sure that absolutely every guideline is adhered to and that people are protected and kept safe.

"But most importantly, and I would ask anyone else where there's matches happening this weekend to not gather at other people's homes and to not try and travel to matches, please watch it from from their home or to listen to it on the radio."

More from this Topic