Ireland Slows Reopening Plan as Coronavirus Cases Increase
(Bloomberg) -- Ireland’s government moved to further loosen pandemic restrictions, though it will retain more rules than planned amid a surge in cases and hospitalizations.
Bars and restaurants will be allowed to resume normal opening hours, but they will still be limited to table service only and customers will need to show proof of vaccination. Full attendance will be permitted at outdoor events and religious ceremonies, though indoor concerts must be all seated.
Other restrictions -- including social distancing and masks -- are set to remain in place until at least February, while a full return to the office won’t happen until next year.
The government had intended to drop almost all restrictions on Oct. 22, with about 92% of the adult population fully vaccinated. Now, though, Ireland is grappling with a renewed spread of the virus.
“Over the course of the last two weeks, we have seen a worsening of the situation,” Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told reporters in Dublin. The increase in cases is “a cause of concern” and “a timely reminder of how dangerous this virus remains,” he added.
Ireland reported the most new cases since January on Sunday. Hospitalizations are at the highest level since March, though that’s about a third of the January peak. About two thirds of people in intensive care are unvaccinated, according to the nation’s health service.
The government will also widen its vaccine booster program to people aged 60 or older. Previously, the program only offered extra doses to over 80s and groups especially vulnerable to the virus.
The rise in cases may be due in part to spillover from the U.K., Martin said, as well as people spending more time indoors as the weather cools.
The U.K. reported the highest daily jump in new cases this week since mid-July. Weekly deaths from the virus there have topped 800 for each of the past six weeks, higher than in other major western European nations, according to Bloomberg’s coronavirus tracker.
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