The Republic of Ireland will be placed under its most severe Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions until January 31 amid rising numbers of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Wednesday.
The tougher measures will force the closure of pubs, gyms and non-essential retail, as well as imposing a ban on all household visits and a 5km limit on travel.
The Irish government has also pushed back the return of primary and secondary school pupils by five days, to January 11.
“We must protect the lives of those we love; the actions we are taking are saving lives… right now, this is what we must do. We must make sure as many of our people as possible are with us to enjoy the brighter days ahead,” Martin said in a televised speech to the nation.
Ireland’s tightening of measures comes as the country reported a further 1,718 Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, a significant increase on Tuesday’s record high of 1,546 infections, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team.
There have now been 90,157 cases of the virus in total in Ireland, while a further 13 fatalities on Wednesday brought the country’s overall death toll to 2,226.
The country’s virus reproduction number (‘R’ number), is also now between 1.6 and 1.8 according to health officials, meaning that statistically, every 10 people infected with Covid-19 infect between 16 and 18 others.
Martin admitted in his speech that the number would “deteriorate further over the coming days,” urging the public to “do what we need to do” to curb the spread of infections and “eliminate contact with others now.”