Residents of Kildare, Offaly and Laois will not be permitted to travel outside of their counties except for in limited circumstances, under plans agreed by the Irish government.
There have been 226 cases of Covid-19 in the last 14 days in the counties.
That is almost half of all cases in the Republic during that period.
Restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms will be closed for the localised restrictions which are due to come in to effect from midnight on Friday.
They will remain in place for two weeks.
Residents will be permitted to travel outside of these counties for the following reasons:
- To travel to and from work, where it is not possible to work from home.
- To attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products.
- For vital family reasons such as caring for children, elderly or vulnerable people – but excluding social visits.
- For farming purposes including food production and care for animals.
People are being asked not to travel to these counties unless for work. Visits to nursing homes, prisons and acute settings in these three counties should be suspended, except on compassionate grounds.
Places of worship may remain open for private prayer, but the government is urging Masses and religious services to be delivered online. A maximum of 25 people can attend funerals.
No sporting events or matches should take place, however, non-contact sports and training may continue outdoors, subject to a maximum of 15 people.
All indoor gatherings including any type of household, private family or social indoor gatherings of people will be restricted to a maximum of six people from no more than three households in total.
In a televised address on Friday evening, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin said clusters were a “serious concern” and “we must protect public health”, adding that “everything else is secondary to that”.
He said that while the government will do everything possible to prevent a return to high levels of transmission citizens hold an “equal responsibility” to do so.
“Pause and reflect on what you can do support those businesses adhering to the advice and steer clear of those who are not,” he said.
He urged people to live the words of the late SDLP leader John Hume, who said “Solidarity is strength”.
Mr Martin said that spirit has never been “more important than today”.
The Irish health authorities had earlier voiced concern at the current Covid-19 infection rate in the country, particularly in Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
The acting chief medical officer said the volume of cases in the three counties was “significant” and he urged vigilance.New restrictions for residents of three counties
On Friday, the Republic’s Department of Health was notified of four additional deaths linked to Covid-19 and 98 more cases of the virus.
Junior government minister Sean Fleming urged all sporting organisations to call off matches in the three counties this weekend.
A large number of the Kildare cases are linked to outbreaks in meat and food processing factories.
One Kildare employer, O’Brien Fine Foods in Timahoe, confirmed it has suspended operations after 80 of its staff tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement, the food company said it had engaged a private testing provider and added “the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high”.
‘An R number of almost 2 is a serious concern’
On Thursday evening, Prof Philip Nolan from the NPHET confirmed that the Republic’s of Ireland’s R rate is now estimated to be 1.8.
The R rate, or reproduction rate, refers to the average number of people a newly-infected person is expected to pass the virus on to after contracting the disease.
Prof Nolan said “a reproduction number of almost 2 is a serious concern”.
He added that “although we have not yet seen a significant increase in community transmission, there is a significant risk this could develop over the coming days and weeks”.
Prof Nolan chairs the NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn urged people in Kildare, Laois and Offaly to “remain vigilant to stop the further spread of Covid-19 in these areas”.
“While the majority of these cases can be accounted for by outbreaks, this volume of cases is significant and our main priority now is to ensure that these outbreaks do not lead to widespread community transmission in the region,” Dr Glynn said.