Ireland Steps Up Virus Restrictions

Dublin, Dec 30 (AFP/APP): Ireland on Wednesday announced tightening of coronavirus restrictions for at least a month, as Prime Minister Micheal Martin warned infection rates were growing “exponentially”.

“We must return to full-scale level 5 restrictions for a period of at least one month,” Martin said in a televised address, calling the situation “extremely serious”. New measures include closure of non-essential retail and gyms from Thursday evening, Martin said.

He said this was necessary after a 61 percent increase in confirmed cases over the last week. “We will do what we need to do to suppress the virus,” he said. “It is now growing exponentially.” The prime minister said that from midnight Wednesday, people “should stay at home except for travel for work, education and other essential purposes.”

From Wednesday evening, no social gatherings in any setting will be allowed, including New Year’s Eve celebrations, although small weddings and funerals can still go ahead. Schools will reopen, he said, but the new term will start three days later than planned, on January 11. Ireland will extend a ban on travellers arriving from Britain until January 6, Martin said.

The Prime Minister said that previous lockdown measures introduced before Christmas were no longer adequate, due to a rising incidence of the virus across all age groups and a “sharp rise in the number of hospital admissions”. Ireland on December 22 announced coronavirus restrictions due to run until January 12, including the closure of hairdressers, restaurants and pubs serving food from Christmas Eve, except for takeaways.

Ireland, which has nearly five million inhabitants, has recorded 2,226 deaths since the start of the pandemic from more than 90,000 cases.

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