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With coronavirus cases surging across much of Europe, Ireland has become the first country in the continent to announce a return to a national lockdown.
Beginning Wednesday night, all non-essential stores will be closed and residents are encouraged to stay at home. While they can go outside to exercise, the activity is restricted to within three miles of an individual's home. Restaurants will only be open for takeout or delivery. Schools will remain open.
The restrictions are set to last six weeks.
“While we have slowed the spread of the virus, this has not been enough and further action is required,” said Micheal Martin, the country's leader, during a national address on Monday night.
He added: “If we pull together over the next six weeks we will be able to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way … the journey will not be easy but the future is in our hands. We must each dig deep and persevere.”
The country recorded more than 1,000 new cases on Monday. According to the Guardian, cases in Ireland are still less than those of Britain, France and Spain, but the healthcare system has limited capacity, especially for intensive care.
The highest infection rates lie at the border with Northern Ireland, which last week ordered a closure of schools, pubs and restaurants. The policy represents one of the strictest measures taken in the United Kingdom, which has implemented a three-tiered system of renewed restrictions. Wales is set to begin a national lockdown on Friday.
Meanwhile, France over the weekend instituted a nightly curfew in nine cities, including Paris, and asked people throughout the country to limit gatherings to six people.
Italy, the European country which was hardest hit at the beginning of the pandemic, also announced a raft of new measures. Local mayors were granted the power to shut down public spaces after 9 p.m. to limit gatherings, while drinking outside restaurants and bars will be prohibited after 6 p.m.
“We mustn’t waste time,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday. “The country can’t allow another lockdown that would severely compromise the entire economy.”