Ireland to ramp up nationwide virus curbs

Ireland will ratchet up nationwide coronavirus restrictions, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Monday, as the Republic is gripped in a second surge of infections.

From midnight on Tuesday (2300 GMT) citizens will be asked to stay in their county of residence and organised indoor events will be cancelled.

Restaurants and pubs will be barred from serving customers indoors, employees encouraged to attend workplaces “only if absolutely necessary” and religious services will be moved online.

The new restrictions — already in place in the capital of Dublin and the north-western county Donegal as part of localised efforts to stem the virus — will last three weeks.

“Recent trends in most parts of the country are a major concern,” said Martin in a televised national address.

“If we do not alter these trends there will be a serious impact — there is no doubt whatsoever about this.”

On Sunday Ireland’s panel of coronavirus health experts recommended moving the whole nation to a second lockdown, mirroring the measures issued in March.

Martin said the government declined the advice after considering the “wider implications” of dealing a fresh blow that recovering businesses and backlogged health services “may not be able to recover from”.

The decision is a significant departure for the Irish government which has largely followed public health guidance over the infection, enacting some of the strictest international travel restrictions in the EU.

It may leave the faltering coalition government, inaugurated in June, vulnerable to criticism if the less stringent restrictions do not turn back the second wave and cases continue to mount.

There have been 1,810 deaths from the coronavirus in Ireland according to latest official figures.

The Republic’s daily death toll from the virus remains low after peaking at 77 in April.

However the nation is in the midst of a resurgence of new infections.

Earlier on Monday Ireland’s department of health announced 518 new cases in its daily toll — a relatively high number for the nation of five million. (AFP)