Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said delivering Easter eggs and travelling to second homes is not permitted this Easter weekend, as gardaí have been granted extra power to enforce regulations.
Gardai will use these powers as part of the Covid 19 crisis to clamp down on people having house parties and exercising more than 2km from their homes.
More than 2,500 gardai are operating over 50 checkpoints nationwide between now and the Bank Holiday weekend to ensure compliance with health regulations and travel restrictions as part of Operation Fanacht.
People who have already travelled to their holiday homes have been warned to stay there while gardai will be turning away those who intend travelling to places of temporary residence over the weekend.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, speaking at a press briefing this afternoon, said they have seen people adhering to restrictions “starting to slip a little” with people exercising more than 2km from their home, moving around where travel is not essential as well as gatherings for house parties.
He said these were all areas where there was a need for the new powers to enforce restrictions.
Mr Harris acknowledged they are “extraordinary powers” and that the Garda will need to be “careful and be proportionate in applying necessary powers”.
He added that they “want to entirely avoid any scenario of overreach” want to be proportionate in their approach
The regulations, which are now in affect after being signed off by Health Minister Simon Harris, are in place until Sunday at midnight.
Penalties for non-compliance include fines of up to €2,500 and up to six months in prison, but arresting people is the last resort and Gardai will be continuing with their engagement approach.
The first port of call, Mr Harris said, would be taking an individuals name and address rather than arresting them, while on the spot fines will not be issued.
The Garda Commissioner said that visiting a family member with critical needs is seen as essential travel but children delivering Easter eggs does not fall within this scope and that “people need to realise it is not an essential journey.”
He also said they have seen instances where cyclists are travelling further than 2km from their place of residence to exercise and said this needs to stop and occur within the 2km limit.
Garda have also introduced the use of spit guards from today to use in specific circumstances where a person is spitting at a member of the public or gardai.
They will in use for the duration of the current crisis and follow a number of incidents across the country of people, claiming to have contracted Coronavirus, spitting at gardai.
Drew Harris also called on the public to report people “blatantly” flouting the restrictions to ensure gardai could move in and deal with the situation.
“What we’ll be doing is making sure that movement is essential as prescribed within the regulations.
“If you’re movement is not essential you will be asked to return to your place of residence,” he said.
“Furthermore this is also a road safety initiative set against the context if the health of the nation and all of us playing our part in acting together to defeat Covid 19.
“Also today we received regulations signed by the Minister but again our approach is not changing, we’re a community based policing service, we’re applying the same tactic as we have all week. It’ll be of informing people and engaging with them and persuading them to comply with the regulations and enforcement is only at the very end of non-compliance by an individual,” Mr Harris added.
The legislation was signed into law this week, and has come into effect until at least midnight on Easter Sunday.
“People only should be moving if they have an essential reason to move throughout the country. What we’ll be doing is making sure that that movement is essential and as described within the regulations.
“If your movement is not essential, you will be asked to return to your place of residence.”
Gardaí had to be supplied with face shields, because of members of the public spitting on them. Mr Harris said that certain members of society in Ireland have disregarded the rules and measures had to be put in place to combat this.
“Discipline required to live by this medical advice is starting to slip a little. We’re seeing things like people exercising more than two kilometres from their home. We’re seeing people moving for non essential reasons. We’re also seeing house parties.
“So these are areas where we may need the regulations, in terms of enforcing the restrictions that are in place at the moment,” he said.
“Regrettably, there’s a small minority, and perhaps an increasing number, who are starting to breach the advice, and then that brings them in conflict with the regulations which are now in force.
“An essential journey may be going to visit a family member where there’s a critical need but regrettably delivering Easter eggs is not a critical need, and people should be should realise that is not an essential journey. If you’re stopped you will be turned back and asked to return to your place of residence,” he said.