Irresponsible behaviour on Covid-19 must end, says Higgins

By Michael McHugh and Aine McMahon, PA

Any irresponsible failure to adopt social distancing must end, Ireland’s President has said.

Michael D Higgins appealed to young people to respond to official advice on limiting the spread of Covid-19.

Another 126 cases were confirmed on Friday, bringing the total to 683, and three people have died.

Mr Higgins signed into law emergency health legislation giving the power to impose detention and other measures.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called for compliance with coronavirus guidelines (Aidan Crawley/PA)

He said: “These new health and social measures may be difficult for many but they affect us all and we are at a point now when a person’s actions have consequences not only for themselves but for all in society.

“Irresponsible individual action puts all at risk. We must draw on our strengths now.”

The Republic has taken strong measures on social distancing to try to curb rising numbers of those contracting the virus.

But large numbers of young people were seen socialising in Dublin’s popular Temple Bar nightlife hub despite a high-profile warning against gatherings a short time earlier from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Under the new law, the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020, the authorities can order people to stay indoors, close down non-essential businesses, cancel events and have the ability to impose targeted restrictions on specific areas of the country.

Mr Higgins said different generations should look out for each other in an effort to prevent deaths amongst the elderly.

“I appeal to these young people to spread the word among their friends of the importance of that which we have been asked to do.

“In every generation there will be exceptions to what is being sought in the public interest.

“Let us hope that we have seen the end of such behaviour which puts all of us at risk.”

Health minister Simon Harris has warned people not to socialise this weekend and insisted social distancing will save thousands of lives.

Health Service Executive chief Paul Reid warned the country faces an “an uncertain, unprecedented and unpredictable” time during the pandemic.

He said: “It is a war against a very silent and dangerous enemy. It is not one we can win with armed forces. It is one that we can win with communities.”

Mr Reid said the country must look after people who are well and those who are sick during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said there will be no need to worry about the number of ICU beds if the public adheres to health guidelines.

“We need to avoid the public shifting to debate on ICU care. We will avoid that if the public can win that battle if we can ask them what we ask them to do.”