The government of Ireland announced a six-week lockdown beginning Wednesday night, becoming the first European country to reimpose a national lockdown.
The new measures, announced on Monday, are a dramatic U-turn for the government, which just two weeks ago fell short of imposing the highest level of restrictions despite advice from public health experts.
But Micheal Martin, the Taoiseach or leader of the government, said that with coronavirus infections on the rise across Europe and much of the world, Ireland could no longer avoid the strict measures, despite the potentially detrimental impact on the economy. He noted that, while recent restrictions appeared to have stemmed the spread of the virus, “evidence of a potential grave situation arriving in the weeks ahead is now too strong.”
“While we have slowed the spread the virus, this has not been enough and further action is required,” he said in a national address on Monday night.
Under the new restrictions, nonessential shops will be closed and people will be urged to stay at home, with the exception of exercise that must take place no more than three miles from home. Restaurants will be limited to takeout or delivery.
Meeting in private homes or yards will be banned as will larger gatherings — though there is an exemption for weddings and funerals with strict limitations on numbers. Schools and child-care services will remain open despite the restrictions, a move that Mr. Martin defended as being in the best interest of children.
He encouraged the nation to remain hopeful, even as new restrictions altered lives and livelihoods once again and the days grow shorter, adding that “even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light.”
“If we pull together over the last six weeks,” Mr. Martin told the nation, “we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way.”
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