Ireland has tightened its restrictions in a bid to curb a surge in Covid-19 cases, with the country’s rate of growth the fourth highest in Europe.
The Government confirmed the new measures will be in place until September 13.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the country went from a weekly low of 61 cases earlier this year to 533 last week.
All outdoor events have been limited to 15 people, and indoor gatherings to six people, down from 50.
Weddings have been excluded from the updated restrictions.
This virus is relentless. We have seen a significant rise in cases across the country and are introducing new public health restrictions to protect lives, protect our health service and give our schools the very best chance of opening and remaining open 1/3— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) August 18, 2020
After a lengthy Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Government agreed that sporting events should be played behind closed doors with social gatherings before and after to be avoided.
Gardai may also be given new powers to tackle breaches of social distancing rules in restaurants, bars and private homes.
Restaurants and bars serving food can remain open but must close by 11.30pm.
People have been told to avoid public transport where possible and to wear face masks on private transport when households are mixed.
Those aged over 70 have been advised to limit their interactions to a small network for short periods.
Businesses are also being encouraged to advise staff to work from home where possible.
A further short to medium-term plan for the way forward will be published by the Government before September 13.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the “harsh reality” is that recent trends and the spread of the virus are “very serious”.
“We are not close to the level and pace of the spread of the virus earlier this year, but we are at a point where we need to recommit ourselves to key behaviours and to accept additional controls,” he added.
“The evidence is that a large number of people are acting as if the virus is no threat to them, or that it’s OK to take a few more risks, and many people seem to believe that if those they are socialising with have no symptoms, there is no problem.
“If the current increase continues, it will be impossible to stop the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable and most compromised and the virus is as deadly today as it was before.”
Mr Donnelly said 190 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on Tuesday.
“We’re now seeing multiple clusters throughout the country, in people’s homes, in multiple workplaces and in a number of other social settings,” he said.
“Our 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 population, a key measure looked at by NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team), is now 26 – that’s come up from four.
“Our five-day average of new cases is 116 new cases per day and rising.”
He said the new measures are to protect the health services and jobs, and to get schools reopened.
He added: “Looking at the facts and listening to the medical experts, we are at a tipping point.
“Ireland’s rate of growth of new cases over the last two weeks is the fourth highest in Europe, and in the last two months we’ve gone from a low of 61 cases in one particular week to 533 cases last week.”
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn warned about the dangers of being in close contact with friends and family.
“It’s very natural that we feel safest when we are with those who we are closest to, whether that’s at home, at work or at play.
“However, with this disease that unfortunately is not always the case – 62% of cases in the last 14 days have been linked to close contact with a confirmed case.
“This means that we must be extra vigilant when socialising with our friends and family and we must not forget the safe behaviours that were so successful in flattening the curve through May and June.
“This virus is not tired even if we are. The measures that have been recommended today place a lot of responsibility on each of us as individuals to make choices about how we behave and how we interact with one another.
“But this is a collective problem and it requires collective action.”
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the people of Ireland are “fed up” and others are fearful.
He added: “(The public) want the Government to work together, to work with agencies, to work together politically to help us tackle the crisis and avoid a worse one.
“It’s a very difficult political task because sometimes it’s hard to make judgment calls on actions when the possible consequences aren’t visible yet.”
The new measures come following advice from NPHET which met on Monday.