Irish government reimposes some virus curbs on midlands region – dpa international


Hand sanitiser near the entrance of a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

Hand sanitiser near the entrance of a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A recent rise in the number of novel coronavirus cases in parts of Ireland has prompted the government to stop residents of three adjoining counties from travelling elsewhere in the country for two weeks.

Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced the curbs in a Friday evening press conference, saying that “over the past week, there have been a number of localised clusters, which are of serious concern.”

The restrictions affect counties Laois and Offaly, as well as Kildare – a densely-populated county in the commuter belt ringing capital Dublin.

The almost 400,000 people living in three counties can only travel elsewhere in Ireland – which recorded a population of 4.76 million in the 2016 census – for work or “essential” purposes such as medical treatment.

The curbs amount to a local reimposition of elements of Ireland’s March-to-May nationwide lockdown. Competitive sports and religious ceremonies will be prohibited for two weeks from midnight, while cafés and restaurants will have to stop offering dine-in services.

Irish health officials announced 98 new cases of the virus on Friday, taking the reported cumulative total to 26,470. Of the cases announced on Friday, 67 were reported in the three countries where the curbs have been reinstated, with most of the new cases traceable to several meat-processing plants.

The combined coronavirus-related death toll for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, is 2,324.

On Tuesday, the Irish government postponed to August 31 a further nationwide relaxation of curbs that would have allowed up to 500 people to attend outdoor events and would have seen all pubs and bars reopen from Monday.

A June relaxation of restrictions saw indoor events opened to up to 50 people, with 200 allowed to attend outdoors. Restaurants and pubs reopened to dine-in customers and to drinkers purchasing a “substantial” meal.

If schools reopen as planned at the end of August, secondary teachers and students will be advised to don face masks if a two-metre distance cannot be maintained in classrooms, the Department of Education said on Friday.

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