Ireland becomes the first EU country to reintroduce a nationwide lock down at midnight on Wednesday, with all non-essential retail businesses closing for six weeks and restaurants limited to takeaway or deliveries.
Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced the new measures on Monday, issuing a nationwide “stay at home” order but saying that schools would stay open.
With the so-called infections on the rise, the government has shut down all non-essential shops, limited restaurants and pubs to takeout service and delivery, and ordered people to stay within 5 km of their homes for the next six weeks.
Everyone in the country is being asked to stay at home, only essential workers will be permitted to travel to work and citizens will be allowed out to exercise only within 5 km of their residence.
The government warned in a statement that “there will be a penalty” for violating the 5-kilometre restriction and that public transport will operate at 25% capacity to serve essential workers only.
Martin said schools and childcare facilities are to remain open because we cannot and will not allow our children and young people’s futures to be another victim of this disease.
A ban on visits between different households and on indoor events will also be extended, although two households will be allowed to mix at outdoor venues such as parks.
And unlike under the previous shutdown order issued in March, elite and professional level sports will be permitted behind closed doors across Ireland.
Martin said the government’s aim was to move from Level 5 restrictions back down to Level 3 by December 1. That would allow all retailers to reopen and restaurants to serve 15 customers outdoors. Even then, another lock down could not be ruled out in 2021.
Ireland has generally taken a cautious stance in fighting the fight against Corona-virus. There are currently no “green list” countries on the nation’s register of safe travel destinations and the government enacted pub closures dubbed “Europe’s longest”.
But Dublin’s decision to return the nation to lock down comes two weeks after the government rejected a similar recommendation from public health chiefs.
The coalition government’s admission that a longer six-week lock down is now necessary could leave it vulnerable to accusations it stalled the public health response to the surging virus.
While countries struggling with high rates of infection like Belgium, the Netherlands and France have shut bars, restaurants and imposed a nighttime curfew, none have such strict travel restrictions within the country as Ireland.
In Wales, people have been asked to stay at home in a two-week “fire-break” lock down announced on Monday.
France imposed its own overnight curfew from the weekend in nine cities including Paris, affecting 20 million people. Slovenia followed suit, with its roughly two million inhabitants forced to stay home between 9 PM and 6 AM and banned from non-essential travel.
France 24 / ABC Flash Point Lock Gown News 2020.