Ireland Becomes First EU Country to Re-Enter Full Lockdown as Europe Battles COVID Second Wave

Amid the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, Ireland will implement its highest level restrictions, from midnight on Wednesday. The country is the first European Union country to re-enter a nationwide lockdown, which will be in place for six weeks.

The latest "Level 5" measures, which broadly reflect those imposed during the country's first lockdown in March, require residents to remain home, with all social gatherings banned except in certain circumstances.

"At Level 5, the public health risk means that you will be asked to stay at home, with certain exceptions. There will be no gatherings other than small numbers at funerals and weddings," according to the latest update Tuesday on the government website.

Under the restrictions, no more than 25 people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals.

The latest move comes as the second wave of the outbreak continues across Europe. Weekly new cases in Europe have been increasing on a sharper incline from around early August, including a 43 percent rise in weekly new cases in the week commencing October 5, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Residents in the Republic of Ireland will also be under travel restrictions. They will be required to stay at home, with exercise permitted only within five kilometers (three miles) of their home.

"Public transport will operate at 25 percent capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work," the new restrictions state.

"You should work from home unless you are providing an essential service for which your physical presence is required," the government noted, adding "there will be a penalty for movement outside five kilometers of home."

Exceptions to the five kilometer rule include traveling for essential work, medical appointments and food shopping.

All non-essential businesses, including retail venues, nightclubs, gyms, pools, hair salons and other personal care facilities, will be closed, while bars, restaurants and cafes will be limited to delivery and take-out services.

"Essential retail and essential services will remain open. This includes food shopping. All other retail and personal services are closed.

"Early learning and childcare services will continue to remain open and are deemed essential," while higher and adult education will be "primarily online with exemptions for essential onsite activities," the government said.

Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions will be closed while church services will be held online.

See the government website for more information on all restrictions.

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin noted in a televised address Monday that despite implementing "Europe's strictest regime," the country has not been able to significantly reduce its level of infections.

"2020 has been a hard year and we are not through it yet; families, individuals and front-line families have sacrificed so much.

"I understand, and I feel very personally and profoundly, the sense of disappointment, the feelings of loneliness, perhaps even the despair that this announcement will bring for many," Martin said.

The total number of confirmed cases in Ireland is approaching 50,000, with at least 1,852 reported deaths, as of Tuesday. Weekly new cases in Ireland rose from early September, after flattening out for months from late May. The country recorded a 72 percent rise in weekly new infections in the week commencing October 12 from the week prior, according to WHO.

Several other countries in Europe recently announced new restrictions following a recent rise in new cases, including in the U.K., Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The move by Ireland comes a day after Wales, a nation within the U.K., confirmed a "firebreak" lockdown would be implemented from 6pm on Friday until November 9.

Under these new restrictions, cafes, restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, beauticians, and hotels must close. The latest measures will also require residents to remain at home, while all outdoor gatherings are banned.

dublin ireland face mask October 2020
Pedestrians in Dublin, Ireland wearing face coverings amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, pictured on October 19. Ireland announced it will impose "Level 5" restrictions (the highest level) from midnight on Wednesday, making it the first European Union nation to re-enter lockdown. Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 40.4 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 8.2 million in the U.S. Globally, more than 1.1 million have died following infection, while more than 27.7 million have reportedly recovered as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates countries with the most COVID-19 cases.

Countries with most COVID-19 cases

The graphic below, also produced by Statista, illustrates regions across the globe seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Regions with surge in COVID-19 cases