Irish prime minister plunges country into new national lockdown ‘for at least a month’ as cases surge 87 per cent in a week
- Ireland’s health officials reported 1,718 new cases and 13 deaths on Wednesday
- It means infections have jumped 87 per cent compared to seven days ago
- Martin said he believed the new strain was spreading ‘much, much faster’
- He said rate has surpassed ‘most pessimistic’ models available
Ireland is to return to a full lockdown for at least a month and will extent school holidays in a bid to curb a surge in the new mutant strain of COVID-19 which originated in the UK.
Prime minister Micheal Martin announced on Wednesday that the virus is now spreading faster than all previous forecasts.
Ireland had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe a few weeks ago, but its five-day average has more than tripled over the past two weeks to over 1,200 cases a day following an easing of public health measures ahead of Christmas.
On Wednesday, Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) reported 1,718 new cases and 13 further deaths.
It means infections have jumped 87 per cent compared to seven days ago, on Christmas Eve.
Martin said he believed the new strain, which British officials have said is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, was spreading ‘much, much faster’, fuelling the surge and threatening to overwhelm the country’s health service.
‘It is spreading at a rate that has surpassed the most pessimistic models available to us,’ he said in a televised address. ‘The situation is extremely serious.’
Ireland is to return to a full lockdown for at least a month and will extent school holidays in a bid to curb a surge in the new mutant strain of COVID-19 which originated in the UK. Pictured: Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the situation is ‘extremely serious’
The government imposed new restrictions on December 22, including the closure of bars and restaurants and limits on travel, but ministers said they hoped to be able to keep shops open and allow people to visit each others homes until December 31.
On Wednesday Martin brought forward a ban on home visits by a day to avoid new year’s eve parties and extended school holidays by five days until January 11 to allow the impact of the new restrictions to be felt.
What restrictions will be in place in Ireland’s new lockdown?
Ireland’s new national lockdown will come into force at midnight tonight.
The new restrictions include:
- People should stay at home unless they need to travel for work, education or other essential reasons.
- Irish residents can also leave home to exercise, within 5km of where they live.
- Non-essential retail and gyms must close.
- No visitors to private homes or gardens unless care is being given to children, or the elderly or vulnerable, or part of a support bubble.
- No social or family gatherings can take place in any setting. Exemptions are in place for weddings with up to six guests or funerals with up to 10 mourners.
The country will remain on the highest level of restrictions for at least one month, including the closure of non-essential retail from Thursday.
Bars and restaurants will remain closed and people will be banned from making non-essential journeys more than 5 kilometres from home.
Martin said the surge appeared to be different from earlier waves, with a shorter delay being seen between increases in infections and increases in hospitalisations.
Health officials said earlier the number of COVID-19 cases in hospital has almost doubled in the past week and case numbers were poised to double every 7-10 days unless additional measures are taken.
The new cases and deaths figures reported on Wednesday brings the total number of infections since the start of pandemic to 90,157.
The total death toll stands at 2,226. Today’s death figures mark a 62 per cent rise on last week’s.
Addressing the nation on Wednesday, the Taoiseach described the situation as ‘extremely serious’.
‘The numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days,’ he said.
‘With the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth, this is not a time for nuance in our response.
‘We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.
‘We must return to full-scale Level 5 restrictions for a period of at least one month.’
In a statement the Irish Government said it further agreed that the ban on air travel and passenger travel on ferries from the UK, where the new strain first originated, will be extended to January 6.
‘As a similar new strain has been identified in South Africa, this ban will also apply to South Africa until 6th January,’ a spokesman added.
Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, said: ‘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.
On Wednesday, Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) reported 1,718 new cases
‘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.’
Ireland’s Covid-19 reproduction ‘R’ rate remains ‘very high’, Philip Nolan, the chair of Nphet, said.
‘The reproduction number remains very high and is currently estimated at 1.6 – 1.8,’ he said.
He added that the growth rate of the virus is estimated to be between 7 and 10 per cent a day, with a doubling time of 7-10 days.
‘We must take action immediately to prevent an almost unimaginable scenario, where case numbers in 7 to 10 days time are twice what they are today. Stay at home,’ he said.
Martin said he believed the new strain, which British officials have said is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, was spreading ‘much, much faster’, fuelling the surge and threatening to overwhelm the country’s health service. Pictured: Pensioner Annie Lynch was the first person to receive any new coronavirus vaccine. She had the Pfizer/BioNTech jab in Dublin on Tuesday
The R is the average number of people each Covid patient infects and when it’s above one it means cases are growing exponentially.
When the R figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.
The new measures being imposed in Ireland came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plunged virtually the whole of England into a brutal lockdown until the Spring.
The UK recorded a further 981 deaths in what was the worst daily toll since April.
The PM said he was filled with ‘bitter regret’ over the need for the new measures, which will see three quarters of the country under Tier 4 restrictions from midnight.
The rest of the South East, Midlands, North-East, parts of the North-West and parts of the South-West were added in to the top bracket.
All remaining areas, besides only 2,000 people on the Isles of Scilly, are being put into Tier 3.
Similarly to Ireland, secondary school pupils have also seen their return delayed to even further in January.
Most schools are now shut until at least January 18 – two weeks longer than originally planned – while testing systems are organised.
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