Ireland has become the first European Union country to to re-enter lockdown, with the Taoiseach (prime minister), Micheál Martin, issuing a nationwide “stay at home”.
Measures coming into effect for six weeks from midnight on Wednesday and will see all non-essential retail businesses close and bars and restaurants limited to takeaway service only.
Martin said Ireland’s latest restrictions were “probably Europe’s strictest regime” but that “further action is now required”.
“Everyone in the country is being asked to stay at home,” Martin said in a televised national address.
Only essential workers will be “permitted to travel to work”, he said, and citizens will be allowed out to exercise only within 5km of home.
Schools and childcare facilities are to remain open “because we cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease”.
A ban on visits between different households and indoor events will also be extended, although elite and professional level sports will be permitted to take place behind closed doors.
“If we pull together over the next six weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way,” Martin said.
Health officials reported 1,031 new infections on Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 50,993. The death toll remained unchanged at 1,852.
Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population is 261, less than Britain’s, France’s and Spain’s, and around the middle of Europe’s table. But Ireland’s health service has little spare capacity, especially for intensive care.