Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced a regional lockdown in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly following a surge in coronavirus cases.
Addressing the country, Mr Martin said the virus was still a “deep and urgent threat”.
He said a number of limited restrictions will apply to the counties for two weeks from midnight:
- Cafes, restaurants and pubs will close indoors and can only offer takeaway and delivery.
- Retail can remain open but with strict adherence to public health guidance including the wearing of facemasks.
- All cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios are required to close.
- There will be no sporting events or matches.
- Hotels can remain open but must limit occupancy to essential non-social and non-tourist reasons. Existing guests can remain for the duration of their booking.
- People in the three counties will only be allowed to travel within their own county unless it is for work or medical appointments, or for family reasons.
- There will also be an exemption for those who need to travel for farming reasons.
- Indoor gatherings will be restricted to six people.
- Visits to prisons, acute hospitals and nursing homes will be suspended except on compassionate grounds.
- People have been asked not to travel to those counties unless for work.
- Creches and playgrounds will remain open and the preparations for the reopening of schools will continue.
#COVID19 remains a deep and urgent threat. It’s merciless and unrelenting.
We have to do everything we can to limit its spread and we have to keep putting the virus under pressure. pic.twitter.com/M9uknIGeiM
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) August 7, 2020
The acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said that the measures are “a proactive and proportionate response” to an evolving situation.
He said: “We are taking these steps now to contain further spread and to ensure, insofar as is possible, that schools and non-Covid health services can reopen and continue to resume over the coming weeks and months.”
He added: “I fully understand that today’s decision will be very disappointing and will cause significant disruption for many of the people in these counties who have already made very significant personal sacrifices in supporting the public health measures throughout this time.
“But we believe that today’s measures will help us to control the disease and we are hopeful that they will only need to be in place for the next two weeks, as currently recommended.”
Responding to the measures, the HSE said it will provide additional resources in the counties, with the National Ambulance Service mobilised to provide additional pop-up testing facilities from Saturday.
They will also be providing isolation facilities for those who cannot self-isolate in their homes or communal settings.
Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, said: “The people of Laois, Offaly and Kildare I know will be particularly disappointed tonight to be taking a step back.
“I want to assure them that the HSE will continue to bring every resource at its disposal to support them in reducing the spread of Covid-19.”
The news comes as four further deaths and 98 more confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the Republic, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team.
Thirty-five of the new cases are located in Kildare, 26 in Offaly and five in Laois.
Some 289 cases of coronavirus have now been identified in the three counties in the past 14 days – almost half the national total recorded over the period – with many cases linked to food processing plants in the region.
One of the affected plants in Co Kildare has announced further cases of coronavirus among its workers.
O’Brien Fine Foods said it stopped operations at its Timohoe facility at 9pm on Wednesday after 80 workers tested positive for coronavirus. On Friday, the firm announced a further six cases of coronavirus have been detected, adding in a statement that the “level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high”.