Ireland imposes new restrictions in three counties as infections surge

Dublin: Ireland announced its first localised lockdowns on Friday as it sought to control coronavirus outbreaks in three of its 26 counties, one of which borders Dublin.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs in Kildare, Laois and Offaly can only serve food in outdoor areas to small groups for the next two weeks, with residents only allowed to leave their county in limited circumstances. The three counties accounted for almost half of all cases in Ireland over the last two weeks.

People queue outside a barber’s shop in Athy in the Irish county of Kildare after restrictions were eased on June 29. The county has now gone back into partial lockdown.Credit:PA

"We all need to understand that this virus is still a deep and urgent threat, it is merciless and it is unrelenting. We have to be decisive. We can't afford to wait and see," Taoiseach Micheal Martin said in his first televised address as prime minister.

Ireland, which for several weeks had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, has seen a spike over the last week with the average infection rate more than doubling to around 50 cases per day. The country had one of Europe's toughest lockdowns earlier in the year.

Some 92 cases were reported on Friday – the highest number of new daily infections since May 22.

The government this week delayed the fourth and final stage of its exit plan for a second time.

Many European countries have reimposed some restrictions or triggered local lockdowns to try to halt a resurgence of COVID-19.

New local lockdown in England

The British government on Friday ordered a ban on gatherings of households in the northern English town of Preston in its latest localised clampdown.

"At the request of the local authority, Preston will be now be added to the list of areas included in the ban on households gathering in each other’s homes and gardens, effective from midnight tonight," the health ministry said. "Guidance will make clear that people should not be gathering with other households anywhere indoors."

Local lockdowns are already in place across Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire, where residents can no longer meet each other inside their homes or in gardens.

Members of two different households are also banned from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, though these businesses have not been told to close.

Infections in France keep rising

The number of people in France infected with coronavirus on Friday rose by 2288, a new post-lockdown high, following increases of 1604 on Thursday and 1695 on Wednesday.

The cumulative death toll from the virus now stands at 30,324, up 12 from Thursday. The number of people in hospital continued its weeks-long slide, falling by 49 to 5011, while the number of people in intensive care also fell again.

Factory linked to fresh outbreak in Belgium

A pork processing plant in Belgium reported 67 COVID-19 infections on Friday, joining a string of outbreaks at abattoirs and meat processing facilities around the world.

Westvlees tested and quarantined 197 workers from the meat cutting department of its plant in Westrozebeke, West Flanders on Wednesday after some employees reported infections.

The company will test all 850 workers at the plant next week, as a precaution, product manager Manuel Goderis said on Friday. The meat cutting department is closed and will reopen on August 17 at the earliest.

Meat processing plants in Ireland and Greece have also reported clusters of new infections this month, while countries including Germany, the UK and the US have seen major outbreaks in the industry.

A German abattoir was shuttered in June after 1500 workers tested positive.


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