The Taoiseach has insisted that if the current COVID surge continues, “no health system anywhere in the world would be able to cope.”
Micheál Martin this evening announced the reimposition of a number of COVID restrictions – including reduced opening hours for pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
From Thursday, they will have to close with all customers off the premises before midnight.
Meanwhile, people will now have to show COVID certs to visit cinemas and theatres, regardless of how many people are attending.
People are also being advised to work from home “unless it is absolutely necessary they attend in person.”
Mr Martin said Ireland's hospitals are under severe strain.
“Our doctors, nurses and care staff are doing an exceptional job in very challenging and difficult circumstances, but obviously, if the number of COVID infections and hospitalisations continues to grow at the rate we are currently seeing, no health system anywhere in the world would be able to cope,” he said.
“The surge we are now experiencing is a dramatic reminder of what this virus can do and the threat that it continues to represent.
“We need to act now to deal with this surge.”
The Taoiseach said the last week has seen the highest rate of COVID hospitalisation since January – and warned that for every four cases detected in Ireland there could be as many as six that are undetected.
He said hospitals are seeing a huge increase in non-COVID care alongside the surge in COVID patients.
“One example to illustrate this point is the number of our children requiring non-Covid hospital care,” he said. “In the six weeks to mid-November 2019, the number of children admitted to hospital was below 12,000. Already in the same six-week period in 2021, more than 20,000 children have been cared for in our hospitals.”
Mr Martin said there is no doubt that, without the vaccine programme, Ireland would now be in a "full-scale lockdown."
He said the expansion of the vaccine booster programme would have an effect - noting that international evidence "shows that the booster not only restores the immunity level achieved by two doses but increases it."
He voiced his belief that the new restrictions represent, "an appropriate response to the situation we find ourselves in."
“Our collective effort over so many months; our shared trust in science and engagement with the vaccination programme have brought us to the point where virtually all of society and the economy has reopened,” he said.
“It is only our collective effort - full adherence to the rules that remain in place, making sure we are vaccinated and taking our booster when it becomes available, working from home if we’re able to, wearing our masks, keeping our distance and being aware of our environment - it is only this collective effort that will keep our society and economy open.
“That will sustain and maintain our progress; that will keep us healthy and safe.”