Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin has announced a new six-week ‘level 5’ lockdown to try and fence off the rising levels of coronavirus in the country.
The deeply unpopular move could, if successful, allow a high level of normality to be restored in time for Christmas. However, should it fail it could threaten the stability of the three-party coalition.
The restrictions that the 26 counties will endure for six weeks begin on Wednesday.
As with the first lockdown earlier this year, all non-essential retail outlets will have to close, as well as hairdressers, salons, gyms, museums and galleries. Pubs, cafes and restaurants will only be able to serve takeaway.
People will not be allowed to travel beyond 5km from home unless for essential purposes, and police will monitor and issue fines to those deemed to be breaching the restrictions.
Citizens will only be permitted to go within five kilometres of their homes for exercise, and will not be permitted to visit the homes or gardens of others anywhere. People will be allowed to meet up outdoors with one other household within 5km.
Weddings will remain limited to 25 guests until the end of the year, and funeral limited to just ten people.
Schools and creches will remain open, however, and construction, manufacturing and top level sports will be permitted to go ahead if deemed ‘essential’. People are asked to work from home where possible.
Those living alone, parenting alone or vulnerable can have close contact with one other nominated household.
The special Pandemic Unemployment Payment is to be restored to €350 a week, but only for those previously earning €400 or above, with lower payments for those on poorer incomes.
Martin put the onus on the public to abide by the new rules, declaring his government “cannot fight the virus alone”.
He said: “We work to suppress the virus when it is growing and we work to reopen as much of our society and economy as possible when it is safe to do so. Until we have a safe vaccine, we must continue in that pattern,” Mr Martin said.