Ireland will impose Level 5 coronavirus restrictions nationwide for six weeks, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Monday, becoming the first EU country to return to a lockdown.   

“I am asking everyone to take this threat seriously,” Martin said in a nationally televised address, adding the government could not fight the virus alone.   

The measures will come into effect beginning midnight Wednesday (2300 GMT).  

Schools and the construction sector will remain open, and pubs and restaurants will only be allowed to serve takeaway.

Health experts had recommended that Level 5 restrictions — the most severe — be introduced to halt a surge in COVID-19 infections in the country.

Not only will non-essential shops and hairdressers have to close, but people will be told to stay at home and only be allowed outside for exercise, and then only within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their homes.

People can meet outdoors with one other household, but only for situations such as exercise, and also within the 5-kilometer limit.

“I understand the sense of disappointment, loneliness and despair this announcement will bring. Even as the winter comes in, there is hope and there is light.

“If we pull together over the next six weeks, we will be able to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way,” Martin said.

“We must persevere, and we must be resilient,” he said. “We will suppress this virus and we will emerge from these restrictions on 1 December.”

The Irish Department of Health announced Monday a further 1,031 cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 50,993.

There were no new fatalities, and the death toll stands at 1,852.

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