Garda checkpoints are to be set up throughout Co Donegal as tighter Covid-19 restrictions come into effect from midnight.

It is part of a garda operation "focusing on supporting public compliance" with public health measures, after tighter restrictions were announced as the county moves to Level 3 of the Government's Living With Covid plan.

Cross-border checkpoints in cooperation with the PSNI will also be mounted in specific locations.

Donegal has overtaken Dublin as the area with the highest rate of cases, with the county now at 148.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Gardaí say Operation Fanacht is designed to support compliance with the public health measures that are imposed under the Level 3 designation. 

They say there will be a high level of visibility of members of the force, "particularly in relation to social distancing and gathering in large groups at amenities and open spaces".

Garda checkpoints are to be set up throughout the county as people are being advised not to travel outside of Donegal unless absolutely necessary. 

Officers in neighbouring Sligo and Leitrim will be patrolling so-called 'destination’ public amenities and open spaces in those counties in support of the operation in Donegal.

An Garda Síochána say Operation Navigation, which focuses on compliance with public health regulations by licensed premises, will continue nationwide. 

In a statement, Deputy Commissioner, Policing and Security, John Twomey said, "We all have a role individually and collectively in protecting ourselves, our families, our communities and the most vulnerable. An Garda Síochána will do its part in keeping people safe. Operation Fanacht is intended to work with communities to support public health measures."

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Deputy Commissioner Twomey said local gardaí will continue to be available to support individuals and local communities, "in particular the most vulnerable in our society during this time". 

He said the gardaí are "fully aware of the impact increased restrictions may have on those who are subject to domestic abuse and do not feel safe in their homes". 

He said, "If you are in danger call 999 at any time. If you feel you are not in immediate danger and you require advice and assistance, you can visit or call your local Garda Station and ask to speak with a Garda in private." 

Meanwhile acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Dr Michael McBride, have issued a joint statement this afternoon following discussions about efforts to reduce travel between Co Donegal and Northern Ireland.

They said that, "Given the current number of new cases in Donegal and neighbouring areas of Northern Ireland in Derry, Strabane and Fermanagh we would appeal to everyone to avoid all but necessary travel across the border. It is also recommended that employers on both sides of the border make every effort to facilitate employees to work from home in so far as is possible.

"We realise that for those living in border areas this will not be welcome news but we must prevent further spread of this virus and we can only do so by working together to protect each other."

The issue of the need for ongoing cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic was also discussed at today's meeting. 

The CMOs jointly appealed to the public to continue to follow public health advice, and due to the high level of cases of Covid-19 in young people in both Donegal and Derry, they appealed to teenagers and those in their twenties and thirties to reduce their social contacts.

People of Donegal prepare to move to Level 3 restrictions

Letterkenny University Hospital's General Manager appealed to people to abide by the guidelines.

While there are no capacity issues at the hospital at present and there are contingency and escalation plans in place, Sean Murphy said that if there is a significant rise in hospitalisations it could have a serious impact on other vital health services provided at the hospital and they don't want to see that happen.

 As some businesses in the hospitality sector prepare to close their doors under the new regulations, one business has gone a step further and voluntarily moved to Level 4.

The Gallen family say it was a moral decision to close one of their hotels in Ballybofey, Villa Rose and keep Jackson's Hotel open for essential workers only.

General Manager Philip Lee said there are so many asymptomatic cases about in the area that they decided to do this for the protection of their staff and customers.

In Lifford, John Martin, who runs a Tyre and Motor Service in the border town is concerned about the restrictions impact on business which he gets from both sides of the border.

But he said he hopes that people will get the message and abide by the guidelines. 

Call for all-island response to the pandemic

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty has called for more interaction between administrations on both sides of the border as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, the Donegal TD reiterated his party's call for an all-island approach to the virus.

Deputy Doherty said, "We need to see far more engagement at Executive and Government level. There is interaction but it is not joined up." 

On the same programme, the SDLP Mayor of Derry, Brian Tierney said the case numbers in his county are "very worrying". 

He urged people not to travel from Donegal in to Derry this weekend, and to avoid all non-essential travel across the border. 

He said he is "concerned" at reports that people have organised buses to travel from parts of Donegal to go to 'wet pubs' in Derry, which remain open.