Ireland preparing to move to toughest COVID-19 restrictions: source

Padraic Halpin
·2-min read
The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in Furbo
The coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in Furbo

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's cabinet will be asked to approve a move to the highest level of COVID-19 constraints for six weeks on Monday, and not a combination of the top two levels as initially considered, a source familiar with the plan said.

The Irish Times was first to report that senior ministers would propose the move to "Level 5" measures, where people would be asked to stay at home other than for exercise within 5km of home. Non-essential retail would also be shut and restaurants only allowed to operate take-away and delivery services.

Ireland's health chiefs last week renewed a call to move to Level 5. A minister said on Sunday that "decisive" nationwide measures were coming but that they would stop short of the full lockdown imposed earlier this year.

The cabinet was due to convene at 1500 GMT, with an announcement by Prime Minister Micheal Martin expected later on Monday.

Two different sources familiar with the plan told Reuters that the initial discussions had considered incorporating parts of Levels 4 and 5 of the five-step framework. National broadcaster RTE said schools would remain open under the new Level 5 plan.

Three counties on the open border with Northern Ireland, which is harder hit by COVID-19, are currently in Level 4, where only essential retail can stay open. The other 23 counties have been on Level 3 for the past two weeks, which introduced a ban on all indoor restaurant dining.

On Sunday, Ireland broke its record for the number of cases recorded in a single day for the fifth time in nine days. The number of COVID-19 patients has also doubled in the past two weeks but stands at less than half the peak in April.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Hugh Lawson)