Ireland has announced tough new Covid restrictions in a bid to stop the Omicron variant after ‘very stark’ warnings from health leaders.
Under the measures in effect from Tuesday to January 9, indoor events will have to run at 50% capacity, a measure that the initiators say will make concerts unprofitable.
Bars and restaurants, which have been subject to varying levels of restrictions since the start of the pandemic, are not allowed to accept bookings for more than six people and may only offer table service, the government said.
Covid cases are rising across Europe, with leaders warning health systems will be overloaded even before the effects of the newly arrived Omicron variant – believed to be more contagious – kick in
Cases are rising across the continent but have stalled or started to decline in countries that imposed lockdowns as leaders desperately try to keep their economies open over Christmas
The number of deaths from the virus is also noticeably rising, especially in Greece and Austria, where vaccine rates are low, although not nearly as high as in the first and second wave.
Ireland has announced tough new Covid restrictions in a bid to stop Omicron variant after ‘very stark’ warnings from health leaders
Under the measures in effect from Tuesday to January 9, indoor events must run at 50% capacity. Pictured: A traveler at Dublin Airport
People are only allowed to welcome visitors from up to three other households into their homes, it says.
Nightclubs, which opened in October for the first time in more than 18 months, will have to close under the new rules.
The number of infections in the country is near a record since the beginning of November, even though 91 percent of eligible persons over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.
The death rate is much lower than during previous waves and the number of cases has stabilized.
But health officials are concerned that even if Omicron doesn’t dodge vaccines, it could significantly increase already high infection rates.
Omicron has so far been found in two dozen countries, including 13 in the EU, although most are associated with travel to southern Africa
Germany announced this week that most public spaces will be banned for the unvaccinated for the foreseeable future, with parliament debating that jabs will be mandatory for everyone from February next year.
Festive shoppers go to the traditional Christmas market on the main square in Krakow, Poland
Announcing the new measures, Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin emphasized that the country is not “going back to the time of lockdowns”.
“It’s about adapting the guidelines to the threat we face today and protecting the progress made so far,” he said.
“If Omicron gets a foothold and becomes more transferable, the potential for a very serious crisis is clear.”
“The risk associated with going into the Christmas season without any restrictions…is just too high,” Martin said.
Ireland has so far identified only one case of the new variant in the country, but Martin noted that the daily number of Covid-19 cases is “still very high”.
“Every time we have faced a new challenge, we as a nation have come together and done what was necessary,” he said.
“I’m asking all of us to do that again.”
He added that the advice from health officials is “very strict.”
Ireland didn’t fully reopen until October 22, after 18 months of rolling lockdowns put in place to contain infections.
Officials registered 5,419 new cases on Friday, an increase from previous weeks, as more than 5,700 people have died from the virus in the country of about five million.
“It’s utterly devastating,” said Angela Dorgan, president of the National Campaign for the Arts advocacy group, who said restrictions during the pandemic were unfair to the arts and nightlife.
Martin said the government would ensure that the entertainment sector receives the necessary financial support.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, meaning it has been hit particularly hard by the latest wave of Covid – forcing the government to mandate jabs
People walk past Christmas market below Duomo Cathedral in central Milan amid tougher restrictions across Europe
Fifteen European countries have now reported cases, amid warnings that it was likely in circulation for ‘weeks’ before it was discovered. Pictured: Milan
Ireland’s move comes as European leaders are pulling the handbrake on the continent’s Covid recovery – rushing with a series of new lockdown measures and travel bans amid panic over mounting cases.
Austria has gone the furthest, locking up the entire country until at least December 11, as leaders work on a law to make vaccination mandatory – aiming for it to take effect by February.
Germany now appears to be following Vienna’s lead, with Angela Merkel announcing yesterday that the unvaccinated will be banned from most public spaces in the run-up to Christmas, as MPs begin to debate a jab mandate – with the government in favor is of entering a February.
Brussels also showed tentative support for vaccine mandates this week, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying it is time for member states to ‘think about’ mandating vaccines – although she admitted that Brussels does not have the power to impose a general law.
Leaders say they were forced into action by the number of cases that rose rapidly even before the arrival of the Omicron variant, which is considered the most contagious form of Covid to date. Fifteen European countries have now reported cases, amid warnings that it was likely in circulation for ‘weeks’ before it was discovered.
As a result, countries have rushed to ban travel from southern Africa — where the variant first emerged — and tighten restrictions on other countries in hopes of slowing the spread of Omicron, as scientists figure out exactly how dangerous it is. .