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Ireland to re-enter full lockdown for at least a month, Taoiseach announces
30 December 2020, 21:02 | Updated: 31 December 2020, 00:28
Ireland is returning to a full lockdown for at least a month after Taoiseach Micheál Martin described the state of the country's Covid outbreak as "extremely serious".
Britain's neighbour will re-enter Level 5 restrictions until midnight on 31 January 2021, partly due to the presence of the new Covid strain believed to have originated in the UK.
In an address to the nation, the Irish leader warned that rising case numbers will "deteriorate further over the coming days".
Among the measures under Level 5 is a ban on visitors in private homes or gardens unless they are providing care to children or the elderly or vulnerable, or part of a support bubble.
Social or family gatherings will not be permitted in any setting, with an exemption for weddings with up to six guests, and funerals with up to 10 mourners.
The Taoiseach urged the public to stay at home, travelling only for work, education or other essential purposes.
People can exercise within 5km of their home, however all non-essential retail and gyms will shut their doors at the close of business on Thursday.
Meanwhile schools will reopen on 11 January, extending the Christmas break by three days.
Mr Martin said that because of the presence of the new variant and the pace of transmission, now was "not a time for nuance in our response".
He added that while the next month will be "very tough for everyone", there is an end in sight with vaccines.
"For the first time since this awful disease landed on our shores, we truly have an end in sight," he said.
"Thousands of vaccines are landing here weekly and by the end of January I am confident that many tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens and our healthcare workers will have been vaccinated."
“Ireland is no longer in a containment phase and is once again in a mitigation phase. Given the current levels of transmission in the community, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious."#COVID19 @CMOIreland— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) December 30, 2020
Earlier, Health Service Executive (HSE) chief Paul Reid warned that virus growth is at a worrying level, adding that the worst fears from before Christmas had been realised.
The R value, the average number of people someone with Covid-19 infections, has been estimated at 1.8.
"There is no doubt that most of our worst concerns that I outlined just before Christmas have been realised," Mr Reid said.
"There is an unprecedented and toxic combination of potential scenarios (which) have literally been realised and have emerged.
"That's a combination of a massively high level and rapidly growing daily cases, combined with (test) positivity levels that have not been seen in a long time, demonstrating a very dangerous level of transmission of the virus along with extreme levels of numbers of close contacts that people have had.
"Multiple factors have come together which we did fear would happen."
At Level 5, the public health risk means that you will be asked to stay at home, except for travel for work, education or other essential purposes, or to take exercise within 5km of home.— MerrionStreet.ie #StaySafe #HoldFirm (@merrionstreet) December 30, 2020
See https://t.co/bcWUJ5BaHe pic.twitter.com/Y2HyfY1uWE
On Wednesday, a further 13 people died with coronavirus, bringing Ireland's death toll to 2,226, while there were another 1,718 cases.
As of 2pm, there were 455 Covid patients in hospitals, of which 37 were in Intensive Care Units.
Earlier, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged the public to limit their contacts, saying: "Ireland is no longer in a containment phase and is once again in a mitigation phase.
"Given the current levels of transmission in the community, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious.
"It is essential that we all limit our contacts to our own household now, restrict our movements and do not give Covid-19 any further opportunities to spread.
"Everyone needs to stay at home other than for essential work or care. This is not the time to be visiting other houses."