Republic of Ireland to move to highest virus restrictions

Republic of Ireland to move to highest virus restrictions

The Irish government is to move the country to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, broadly similar to the spring lockdown.

Cabinet ministers have agreed to level five restrictions from midnight on Wednesday in a bid to combat the rise in cases.

The restrictions are to last for six weeks but will be reviewed after four.

Under the rules, people will only be able to exercise within 5km (3 miles) of their home.

However, schools and creches will remain open and elite sport and construction will continue.

Taoiseach (prime minister) Mícheál Martin is to give a televised address at 21:00 local time on Monday.

On Monday, the Irish Department of Health reported no further coronavirus-related deaths, with the total remaining at 1,852.

The total number of positive cases stands at 50,993, after a further 1,031 were recorded.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals has risen to 298 in the last 24 hours.

Ministers rejected a similar recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) less than a fortnight ago.

The Irish government published its five-stage framework for “living with Covid-19” in mid-September.

At the time, the government said it was moving from a short-term emergency response to the pandemic to a medium-term approach which involved “managing risk” posed by the disease and repairing the damage it had inflicted on society.

Currently, most of the country is at the mid-way point on level three.

However, people in the border counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan have been living with level four restrictions since Thursday.

Under level four, all non-essential shops, businesses and services must close but the government’s priority is to keep schools and childcare services open.

Over the weekend, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said current restrictions did not go far enough to curb infections.

“Level three has not worked in terms of getting the virus to where it needs to get to,” he told broadcaster RTÉ.

Mr Harris, who was minister for health during the first wave, suggested that nationwide measures were now required as a “county-by-county approach is not sufficient”.

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