Coronavirus: Ireland may return to full national lockdown for six weeks in 'surprise move'

·2-min read

Ireland's government is considering going back into a full national lockdown for six weeks, Sky News understands.

The lockdown, which would put the country on its highest coronavirus alert level - 5 - has been recommended by health experts to halt the surge in COVID-19 cases.

It is thought that schools and creches will be allowed to stay open, and elite-level sports can continue, but that non-essential retail, hairdressers and salons will close.

Funerals will reportedly be limited to 10 people, and only six people will be able to attend weddings.

Under the proposals, it is also thought that people could be asked to restrict their movements to within three miles (5km) of their home.

In Ireland, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan are currently all at Level 4, while the rest of the country is at Level 3.

Political leaders had briefings on Saturday in Dublin from health officials, over concerns that the virus was spreading, while the cabinet's sub-committee met on Monday morning to discuss the plan.

A formal announcement is expected later on Monday evening.

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Monday's data shows that there are 298 people with COVID-19 in hospital, 31 of whom are in intensive care.

The country reported no coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, and 1,031 cases.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for social support to be put in place, as well as cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) to be fully restored.

Ms McDonald added that restriction changes must "balanced" and clearly communicated, during an interview with RTE.

Analysis: "The government is reluctant to impose new measures"
By Stephen Murphy, Ireland correspondent

All day, the signs had been that a compromise Level 4 - or "Level Four Plus" response - had been on the cards from a government that is privately quite reluctant to impose a draconian lockdown.

However, we now understand that the original proposal from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is the one being considered at this afternoon's cabinet meeting.

The news will be met with dismay from retailers and the hospitality sector, which will grind to a halt again if the plan is approved.

The restrictions would be similar to the initial lockdown in March, although it's thought that schools will be kept open and the construction industry protected under the proposals.

It's important to stress that no final decision has yet been made - an anxious nation won't get the official details until Prime Minister Micheal Martin gives a public address sometime around 9pm.