Just when everyone was getting used to encouraging news about countries reopening to tourism, the Republic of Ireland is reintroducing a national lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise.
Ireland will have the unenviable distinction of being the first European country to return to a nationwide lockdown, with nonessential retail businesses — including barber shops, gyms, leisure centers, and cultural institutions — ordered to close and residents asked to stay within three miles of their homes. Schools and other essential services will remain open.
Cases in Ireland have risen by 75 percent since early September, NPR reported.
“We’re making a preemptive strike against the virus,” said Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadakar, “before it’s too late. Our objective is to change the structure of the virus to flatten the curve again to get it under control.”
There will be a system of fines and penalties for those who break the rules — to be announced later this week — though socialization “bubbles” will be allowed between two households in certain circumstances. Only two separate households will be allowed to meet outdoors within the travel limit, and public transportation will be operating at 25 percent capacity. Road checkpoints will insure that everyone is respecting the travel limit.
Prime Minister Micheál Martin said in an address, “If we pull together over the next six weeks we will be able to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way…the journey will not be easy but the future is in our hands. We must each dig deep and persevere.”
The restrictions are scheduled to last for six weeks but will be reviewed after four.