The country's first regional lockdown will see residents of Kildare, Offaly and Laois barred from leaving their counties from midnight tonight.
The news comes as four further deaths and 98 new cases due to Covid-19 was announced.
The measures, which will be in place for two weeks, were announced by the Taoiseach this evening due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the counties under advice given by NPHET to government today.
Addressing the country, Micheál Martin said the virus was still a “deep and urgent threat”.
Mr Martin said: "We have more information now than we did at the start of this pandemic. We now know how Covid-19 attacks by stealth and we know how fast it moves.
"So, we have to be decisive. We can’t afford to “wait and see” – the disease is not waiting.
"We must protect public health to the greatest extent possible.
"Everything else is secondary to that, and if this requires difficult decisions then so be it."
Cabinet has agreed the restrictions on the movements in the counties for two weeks. The rest of Ireland will stay in Phase 3 of the reopening roadmap.
Residents of Kildare, Offaly and Laois can only travel within their own county, other than for the following reasons:
- to travel to and from work where that work cannot be done from home
- to attend medical appointments, collect medicines and other health products
- for vital family reasons, like providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, but excluding social family visits
- for farming purposes, food production or care of animals.
The Government said that people should not travel into any of these counties, other than for these reasons and unless travel through these counties is for the purpose of reaching a destination outside of these specified counties.
The Government said that “in this regard, people should not stop in the specified counties, unless for essential purposes”.
People in the countries are asked to:
- Restrict their movements to travel within their own county except for work or other essential reasons
- Limit their contacts to six visitors and no more than 3 households in their home.
- Work from home where possible
The Government has also asked that "for those people at a higher risk from Covid-19 using their own judgement, are advised to stay at home and limit visitors except for essential care services".
Under the measures, cafés and bars will close unless they are doing takeaway or outdoor dining, which is limited to 15 customers. Cinemas, gyms, cultural venues and other entertainment venues will close.
All sport will be cancelled, though non-contact training for up to 15 people can continue.
Retail stores can remain open under strict social distancing rules and churches can be open for private prayer.
Hotels will remain open, but must limit themselves to non-tourist and non-social business. Hairdressers and barbers can remain open, subject to social distancing.
Funerals will be limited to 25 attendees.
Indoor gatherings are expected to be limited to six people and outdoor to 15.
Childcare will stay open and preparations to open schools continue as planned.
Visits to prisons, acute hospitals and nursing homes will be suspended except on compassionate grounds.
Mr Martin added in his address: "While the burden of this evening’s decision falls heaviest on our people in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, the message needs to be heard and understood by everyone across the country.
"It requires constant vigilance. And it requires everyone to continue putting the virus under pressure."
The HSE has announced that “additional resources in support of our public health teams in the region, particularly in their contact tracing work” will be provided to the region.
A statement revealed that the National Ambulance Service have mobilised to provide additional pop up testing facilities in the region from tomorrow.
“Our regional Community Response Teams will provide communications and any necessary support to Long Term Residential Care facilities in Laois, Offaly and Kildare, including all nursing homes, both public and private,” it added.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said: “We all need to redouble those efforts now, particularly in the three counties worst affected.
“I want to urge everyone to continue to wash their hands, maintain social distance, wear a face covering on public transport and in shops and sign up to the Covid App.
“If you have any symptoms, or are a close contact of a case, please come forward for a test.
“The people of Laois, Offaly and Kildare I know will be particularly disappointed tonight to be taking a step back.
The news comes as it was announced that there has been four further deaths due to Covid-19 in the country.
Health officials were also notified of 98 new cases in the country.
Of today’s cases, 57 are and 38 are women. The NPHET announced that 68% of cases are under the age of 45.
They said 35 cases are located in Kildare, 26 in Offaly, 6 in Wexford, 5 in Laois, 5 in Dublin.
21 are spread across 10 other counties (Carlow, Cavan, Donegal, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Westmeath and Wicklow).