Plans to reopen pubs across Ireland next week have been put on hold for the second time after the Government said it will not give the go-ahead to move to the next phase.
Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will remain closed until a review at the end of the month.
Further restrictions on pubs serving food and restaurants was also announced after Taoiseach Micheal Martin said they will now have to close at 11pm.
Mr Martin said there was “worrying evidence” of an increase in transmission of the coronavirus within society.
“I wish I was in a position to share better news today, but I am not,” he said.
He said the 14-day incidence per 100,000 is 7.54, which is up from 2.46 in the 14 days up to June 30.
“Given these figures, and the international trend of increased transmission, the Government has made a number of decisions today based on the advice of NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team),” Mr Martin said.
“I know that this will come as a bitter disappointment to many people. The cabinet has agreed to continue with the current public health measures that are in place.
“The current restrictions on numbers attending indoor and outdoor gatherings will remain unchanged.
“We will review the evidence again in three weeks’ time. I know that this will come as a blow to pub owners and I want them to know that I have enormous sympathy for their plight.
“This virus is taking away their ability to earn a living. It is stopping them from providing a key service in the heart of many communities, especially in rural Ireland.
“We’re doing what we’re doing to save lives and to give our society and economy the best chance we can to reopen safely and sustainably.”
It means that gatherings of people outdoors will remain at a limit of 200, and not increased to 500 as hoped.
It was also confirmed that face coverings will be mandatory in shops and shopping centres across the country from the August 10.
The so-called green list of countries that could be travelled to and from without movement restrictions has been shortened from the previous 15 to 10.
The countries removed from the list were Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.
However, the Government repeated its message that people should stay at home and not travel abroad.
Mr Martin appealed for the public “to have patience”.
“Please let us continue to fight the virus together for our brilliant health workers, for our children who need to get back to school, for our vulnerable loved ones, for our society and our economy,” he added.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the virus is “blazing around the world” and is worse now than ever.
He added: “I know for workers who thought they were going back to work next week and for businesses who thought that they might be able to reopen, this is going to be a body blow for them. And we’re very sorry about that but this is the right decision to take.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that while Ireland has been doing well, he warned about the spike in cases.
“Ten days ago the five-day average for Ireland was 20 new cases per day – it’s now 53 new cases per day,” he added.
“Two weeks ago, we had 120 new cases. Last week we have 284 new cases.”
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that a significant proportion of new cases over recent weeks are being found in those aged under 45 years.
“No age group is immune from this virus and NPHET has recommended today that more is done to reach out and communicate with younger people,” Dr Glynn added.
“This is not about blame. We will all slip up on occasion, but the priority now must be on continuing to encourage each other to build on and sustain the great efforts that we have all made to date.
“We must not drop our guard, whether that’s in our own homes in our workplaces, or when we’re meeting our friends.”
Mr Martin also ruled out reopening pubs on a regional basis, saying there were spikes in clusters and community transmission cases in many counties.
He also could not guarantee that pubs would reopen this year, adding that it depends on the prevalence of the virus.
Dr Glynn said there were issues around the manner in which people travel to and from venues where there are large gatherings.
“The concern is that they congregate before and afterwards. We have multiple incidents of cases arising from people sharing transport, from household mixing,” he added.
In a statement, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) accused the Government of abandoning the 3,500 smaller pubs across Ireland.
Make no mistake, this is a full-blown crisis for the trade as over 3,500 pubs must now remain shut.Padraig Cribben, VFI
VFI chief executive Padraig Cribben said: “This is Groundhog Day for the trade as twice now the reopening of pubs has been postponed.
“The new Government’s decision has caused grave alarm within the trade as publicans face an extremely uncertain future with little to feel optimistic about.
“Make no mistake, this is a full-blown crisis for the trade as over 3,500 pubs must now remain shut.”
No further deaths with coronavirus have been reported in Ireland by the NPHET, leaving the national total at 1,763.
However, 45 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been notified, bringing the total number of Irish infections to 26,253.
Of these new cases, 77% are aged under 45, and 31 are associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case.