(CNN) – Its Prime Minister Michel Martin announced that Ireland will impose restrictions and a midnight curfew on bars, restaurants and nightclubs from Thursday, as the country grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 cases.
Martin said the increase in infections in the country was a “deep concern,” while unveiling a series of new measures aimed at “limiting socialization across the board.”
Actions include people working from home and expanding vaccination permit requirements: People now must show their vaccination certificate to enter theaters and cinemas.
Ireland has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, with 89.1% of people over the age of 12 vaccinated, but its booster program is only available to those over 60, health workers and people at risk. Martin said the government plans to offer third doses to people over 50 and people with underlying health problems.
The prime minister called for a “collective effort” to keep the Irish economy open, citing the “emerging picture across Europe” of coronavirus cases. In general, it is increasing and prompted governments to impose new restrictions.
Ireland has recorded the largest number of cases since January this Friday, when 5,483 new infections were reported. Deaths are at a much lower rate than during their peak in January, but are slowly escalating.
The country also recorded the second highest rate of hospitalizations this week in all of 2021, according to Martin. One of the main hospitals in the capital Dublin, Mater Hospital, increased its intensive care unit capacity on Monday and is now discharging patients from intensive care, according to state broadcaster RTÉ.
Curfews, restrictions and unpopular measures
But the new rules have met with disappointment across the tourism sector, particularly among nightclub owners, who were only allowed to reopen last month after being closed since March 2020.
The Ventures Federation of Ireland (VFI) said in a statement that the move was “a very disappointing move for many nightclubs and pubs, many of which will have to close just three weeks after reopening.”
The chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI), Adrian Cummins, said that given the high rate of vaccination in the country, “the re-imposition of restrictions on hospitality shows that living with Covid is not feasible for our country”.
Martin said the measures approved by Cabinet early Tuesday represented an “appropriate response to the situation in which we find ourselves”. “And I know that no one wants to return to the world of public restrictions,” he added.
Ireland now joins a growing number of European Union countries that have reimposed restrictions before winter. Covid-19 infections are increasing across the block, particularly in the central and eastern parts of the region.
On Monday, the lockdown on unvaccinated people went into effect in Austria, as the new German government presses for strict new measures for unvaccinated people.