More than 170 new positive cases of coronavirus have been notified in Ireland’s latest daily update.
One further death with Covid-19 and 174 new cases were reported by the Department of Health on Saturday.
It comes as new restrictions are in force for those living in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly – aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.
Of the latest cases, the majority (110) are located in Kildare, followed by Dublin (seven), Cork (seven), Offaly (seven) and six in Meath.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn described Saturday’s figures as “high, but not unexpected”.
“We are expecting significant numbers of cases to be reported over the coming days,” he said.
“Throughout this week, we have been testing all workers in facilities where outbreaks of Covid-19 have been identified as well as close contacts of those people who have received Covid positive results.
“Tonight’s figures are a reflection of these measures with 118 of these cases linked to the counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
“Our priority now and our reason for recommending the proactive measures announced last night, is to avoid these cases and clusters leading to widespread community transmission of the disease.
“50 of tonight’s cases are located outside of these three counties and around the rest of the country. I once again ask everyone regardless of where you live in the country to take every precaution possible to help us control the spread of this disease and protect our most vulnerable.”
Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, added: “As outlined by the acting chief medical officer at the press conference last night, the 14-day incidence per 100,000 population in Kildare, Laois and Offaly is worryingly high.
“While the national incidence stands at 16.3 per 100,000, in Kildare it stands at 130.3, in Laois it is 69.7 and in Offaly it is 89.8.
“Should these cases result in widespread transmission, it could undo a lot of the good work that we have done as a country so far to control the spread of this virus.
“The measures introduced by NPHET last night represent a proactive and proportionate response to the current situation in these counties.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced new restrictions in the three counties on Friday, describing Covid-19 as remaining a “deep and urgent threat”.
#COVID19 remains a deep and urgent threat. Itâs merciless and unrelenting.— MicheÃ¡l Martin (@MichealMartinTD) August 7, 2020
We have to do everything we can to limit its spread and we have to keep putting the virus under pressure. pic.twitter.com/M9uknIGeiM
As the new measures came into force at midnight, the Garda recommenced Operation Fanacht in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, focused on supporting public compliance.
Officers are set to be highly visible, manning checkpoints and a permanent presence on relevant motorways and associated off ramps.
Deputy Commissioner John Twomey urged those living in the three counties to stay at home and avoid unnecessary journeys.
“This operation is designed to support the restrictions that are being implemented locally in these three counties in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
“It is vital that we continue to work to minimise the risk to ourselves, our families and our local communities.
“We would appeal to all those living in these counties to stay and home and not undertake unnecessary journeys in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”
The new rules for counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly include restricting movement with the exception of work purposes and other essential journeys; restaurants and pubs serving food to close, apart from takeaway services, deliveries and limited outdoor dining; and the closure of indoor entertainment and sport venues such as cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries and bingo halls.
Visits to prisons, acute hospitals and nursing homes will be suspended except on compassionate grounds.
People have been asked not to travel to those counties unless for work.
However, retail shops can remain open with the wearing of face masks, and childcare facilities and schools that are open can remain open.
Outdoor amenities including playgrounds will also remain open with social distancing.
Mr Martin added: “Households in these counties are asked to restrict visitors to their homes to no more than six people from no more than three households.
“Outdoor gatherings should be limited to 15 for organised activities.
“We are conscious that as we move forward through this pandemic our responses need to be more nuanced and more sustainable.”
He said Ireland is “still doing well by international standards” but described localised clusters as “a serious concern”.
Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald responded to the move by claiming communities are “paying the price for lack of testing and inspection at meat plants and Direct Provision centres.
“This must be urgently addressed. The community must be protected.”
Meanwhile Labour senator Mark Wall has urged the public in Laois, Offaly and Kildare to heed the new measures.
“I know these measures will be difficult to adhere to, but we must follow them in order to suppress the spread of the virus. I would respectfully ask that we all adhere to the steps announced for the next two weeks,” he said.
Just spoke with Taoiseach re lockdown of #Kildare #Laois & #Offaly.These communities are paying the price for lack of testing & inspection at meat plants and DP centres. This must be urgently addressed.The community must be protected. #COVID19— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) August 7, 2020
“It is about saving lives that would otherwise be lost and to protect our parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and vulnerable people. Covid-19 knows no boundaries and it is vital that we do not allow uncontrolled transmission to take hold in our community.”
A food processing plant in Co Kildare stopped operations at its Timohoe facility at 9pm on Wednesday after 80 workers tested positive for coronavirus.
On Friday, the firm announced a further six cases of coronavirus have been detected, adding in a statement that the “level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high”.
The GAA has suspended all activity in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly, including all collective training, matches, face-to-face meetings and camps.
GAA grounds and facilities in the affected counties should remain closed until further notice.GAA
“GAA grounds and facilities in the affected counties should remain closed until further notice,” it said.
The reproduction number of the virus in Ireland is now estimated to be 1.8.