DUBLIN – Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin on Monday night declared that the whole country will move to the highest Level-5 response to deal with the deteriorating COVID-19 situation.

Addressing the nation in a televised speech following a cabinet meeting, Martin said the government’s decision will be implemented starting from midnight on Wednesday and last for six weeks until Dec. 1.

“If we all pull together over the next six weeks, we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way,” he said.

Under the Level-5 response, all people in the country, except essential workers, are required to stay at home and their movement from home shall be limited to 5 kilometers, he said.

According to Martin, only essential retail outlets such as supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open, and restaurants, cafes and bars can only provide takeaway services.

Describing the Level 5 measures as “probably Europe’s strictest regime”, Martin said that a full lockdown is “simply not a realistic option” and some exceptions will be made.

According to him, schools, childcare services, construction sector and most manufacturing will remain open.

Level 5 is the highest level under the Irish government’s medium-term COVID-19 plan introduced in mid-September. It is similar to the level of restrictions experienced in March and April, except schools will remain open, according to the Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

Under the Level-5 response, there should be no social and family gatherings at homes or in gardens, but visits on compassionate grounds and for caring purposes can continue, he said, adding that the maximum number of people attending a wedding will be capped at 25.

Martin also said that financial support for businesses and individuals affected by the new restrictions will be provided by the government.

Ireland is currently under a Level-3 response except a Level-4 response declared for three counties in the country’s northern region.

The Irish Department of Health on Monday reported another 1,031 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 with no new deaths related to the virus. To date, there have been a total of 50,993 confirmed cases in the country, with 1,852 fatalities.

According to the department, the daily confirmed cases in the country have exceeded 1,000 for the past six consecutive days and the country’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population now stands at 261.7, the highest level since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Oct. 19, there were 198 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 44 of them were in clinical trials.

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