The Irish government announced Monday evening a tightening of preventive measures to try to counter a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but without going as far as the containment recommended the day before by its medical advisers.
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The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommended on Sunday evening that the entire country move to the highest level of restrictions, measures similar to those taken during lockdown in March.
But Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced that from midnight Tuesday, the Irish will no longer have to leave their county of residence. Indoor festive events are canceled, church services will take place online, restaurants can only serve outdoors, and employees are encouraged to come to the office only when “absolutely necessary.”
Similar restrictions are already in place in the capital Dublin and in Donegal County (North West).
“Recent trends in much of the country are very worrying,” Martin commented during a televised intervention. “If we don’t change the course of things, the consequences will be very serious, there is no doubt about it.”
These decisions put the Irish government, which came to power in June, in a difficult position.
The Irish government has in the past followed health authorities’ recommendations to fight the novel coronavirus, imposing some of the European Union’s toughest international travel restrictions.
But by refusing to put in place new restrictions recommended by scientists, he risks being accused of being responsible for the new infections and deaths that could arise. A new lockdown is a politically difficult decision, unpopular with the public and economically devastating.
Ireland has a lower contamination rate than Israel, the first country to decide on a second lockdown last month, with 38,032 recorded cases, but Dublin has recorded more deaths (1,810), while its population is more low.