Ireland returns to full lockdown for at least a month, with prime minister warning of ‘extremely serious’ situation

Ireland will return to Level 5 restrictions for a least one month in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the prime minister Micheal Martin has said.

Addressing the nation, he described the situation as “extremely serious”, saying the new strain is “spreading at a rate that has surpassed the most pessimistic models available to us”.

He said: “The numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days.

“With the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth, this is not a time for nuance in our response. We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.”

He went on: “We must return to full-scale Level 5 restrictions for a period of at least one month.”

The Taoiseach said the tougher restrictions will apply from this evening.

They include:

  • No visitors in private homes or gardens unless they are providing care to children or the elderly or vulnerable, or part of a support bubble.
  • No social or family gatherings should take place in any setting, with an exemption for weddings with up to six guests and funerals with up to 10 mourners.
  • People should stay at home except for travel for work, education or other essential reasons, or for exercise within 5km of home
  • Non-essential retail and gyms will close

Meanwhile, schools will reopen on 11 January, extending the Christmas break by three days.

The Irish Government has also agreed that the ban on air travel and passenger travel on ferries from the UK will be extended to 6 January.

“As a similar new strain has been identified in South Africa, this ban will also apply to South Africa until 6 January,” a spokesman added.

Mr Martin said warned the coming month would be “very tough for everyone” but that the end of the restrictions was in sight.

“For the first time since this awful disease landed on our shores, we truly have an end in sight,” he said.

“Thousands of vaccines are landing here weekly and by the end of January I am confident that many tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens and our health care workers will have been vaccinated.”

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