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Ireland tightens COVID-19 restrictions in attempt to avoid national lockdown

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Ireland is stepping up to Level 3 restrictions - but is just swerving a full lockdown
Ireland is stepping up to Level 3 restrictions - but is just swerving a full lockdown   -   Copyright  Peter Morrison/AP
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Ireland has tightened its coronavirus restrictions after a surge in cases — but has for the first time gone against advice from it experts to go into another lockdown.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Monday that he would be upping the country's alert to Level 3, meaning all indoor restaurant dining will be banned.

Such restrictions have already been in place in Dublin and Donegal for the last fortnight, where pubs have been able to serve a limited number of people outdoors.

In Dublin, bars that only serve drinks have not yet been allowed to reopen at all.

Martin warned in a televised address on Monday night that "if we all act now," a second lockdown could be avoided, which, he said, could bring businesses into financial ruin.

"What happens next is in our own hands," he said. "It’s about protecting lives and livelihoods. ... If we all act now, we can stop the need to introduce Level 4 and 5 restrictions."

Stephanie Lecocq/AP
Micheal Martin announced the restrictions, which go against advice from health chiefsStephanie Lecocq/AP

His comments come despite a surprise call from the National Public Health Emergency Team on Sunday urging the taoiseach to elevate the country to Level 5 — the top level of COVID-19 restrictions.

This would make Ireland the first European nation to have a second national lockdown and was a recommendation met with resistance from the political and business worlds.

Deputy Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said to take such advice would be an "experiment" on the population, which had already undergone one of the longest initial lockdowns on the continent.

He added that the advice had not been considered properly and that the body running Irish hospitals had also disagreed with the concerns from the government's health experts.

"Three very good reasons to say not yet," Varadkar told state broadcaster RTE.

Ireland currently has the 14th highest infection rate among 31 countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control.

It recorded its highest number of daily cases since April over the weekend and has a 14-day rate of 104 cases per 100,000 people.