Strict new limits on Ireland’s hospitality sector and home visits have been announced by the country’s chief minister.
From 7 December until 9 January, nightclubs will close and restaurants and bars will only be allowed to run table service with a maximum of six people per booking.
Indoor events such as concerts must function at 50% capacity, while people should only have visitors from a maximum of three other households in their home.
Speaking in a televised address, Micheal Martin said: “The risks associated with proceeding into the Christmas period without some restrictions… is just too high.”
He additional that the advice from health officials is “very stark”.
According to Irish broadcaster RTE, Mr Martin said he understood the frustration the restrictions would cause but that “protection of public health is the government’s dominant responsibility and we will do in any case is needed to release that duty”.
Mr Martin additional that it was not about “going back to the days of lockdowns” but about adjusting to risk.
RTE said the restrictions included having one metre between tables in bars and restaurants, no multiple table bookings and people must use masks when not seated.
Ireland’s COVID unemployment payment scheme will temporarily return to help people who lose their jobs in the entertainment sector as a consequence of the new rules.
Nightclubs were only able to reopen in October, after more than 18 months shut.
The country has been reporting near-record case numbers since early November, despite 91% of eligible people
over 12 now fully vaccinated.
However, the death rate is much lower than past groups.
Deputy chief minister Leo Varadkar said Ireland was “facing a rather disinctive situation” as it was tightening rules when “the epidemiological picture is truly improving”, RTE reported.
From this weekend anyone arriving in Ireland will also need to provide a negative COVID test, said transport minister Eamon Ryan.
Many governments have announced stricter rules due to the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, including travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings.
Scientists are concerned it could spread quicker and evade the protection given by prior infection or vaccination.
Twelve of the 22 known UK situations up to 30 November had been fully vaccinated, said health officials on Friday.
But much is nevertheless unclear as experts scramble to study situations of the variant – which was only recently discovered in southern Africa.
situations have now been detected around the world and are so far very small compared with the principal Delta variant. However, numbers are expected to grow.
The UK’s booster jab programme is being accelerated to help fight any spread of Omicron and disguise rules have returned for shops and public transport.
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