Europe

Coronavirus: Ireland puts brakes on easing lockdown amid 'real concern'

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The Republic of Ireland has decided not to move forward to Phase 4 of its roadmap for easing lockdown amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19.

"This virus has not changed, indiscriminate in its cruelty and relentless," said the taoiseach.

"The concern about the rise in cases in recent weeks is very real, the R (reproductive) number has risen above 1 in this country," Micheál Martin said.

"The international situation represents a growing worry."

Mr Martin said the Irish cabinet had agreed that current public health measures should remain in place and the Republic of Ireland would not progress to Phase 4 of the agreed roadmap.

He was speaking following a meeting with his cabinet colleagues on Wednesday evening.

The five key priorities identified by Irish government are:

  • Face coverings must be worn in all shops and retail settings and shopping centres. Retail staff will also be required to wear them unless there is a partition in place or there is a space of 2 metres between them and customers.
  • Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will remain closed until 10 August. Pubs currently serving food can remain open.
  • Social visits to people's homes should be limited to a max of ten people from no more than four different households.
  • Current restrictions of 50 people in indoor gatherings, 200 at outdoor gatherings is being extended until 10 August.
  • It is continuing to advise against all non-essential travel.

Phase 4 of Ireland's plan to move out of lockdown - which could have seen pubs that do not serve food reopen- was due to start on Monday.

It comes as two further Covid-19-related deaths were recorded in the Republic - the death toll is now 1,748.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Pubs will not now reopen until 10 August

Fourteen new cases of coronavirus have also been recorded, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 25,683.

Pubs and hotel bars operating as restaurants have already been allowed to reopen, under Phase 3. They are only allowed to serve alcohol to customers who purchase a "substantial" meal.

The news that the country will not move forward comes amid concerns about a rising number of new cases of the virus - particularity in young people - since lockdown eased and the Republic of Ireland opened up again.

There has been an increase in the number of clusters of Covid-19 in private households, particularly in the last week.

Currently a maximum of 50 people are allowed to gather indoors. This had been due to rise to 100 on 20 July.

Some 200 people can gather outside. This had been due to increase to 500 in Phase 4 of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The increase in the size of crowds permitted would have allowed cultural and arts facilities, such as theatres, cinemas and galleries, to reopen their doors.

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