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Ireland to consider renewed lockdown advice from health chiefs

FILE PHOTO: Houses are seen behind a sign for a closed main walkway as the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) announced recommendations that the government implement the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions to Level 5, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Galway, Ireland, October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Irish government is considering introducing more coronavirus curbs, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Friday, after local media reported that health chiefs had renewed calls for a second national lockdown.

The government rejected a surprise recommendation by health chiefs to enter Europe’s first major second-wave national lockdown 11 days ago, instead tightening restrictions, including a nationwide closure of all indoor restaurant dining. [L8N2GW4D6]

Cases are now growing at a faster pace and Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said this week that his team had not retracted its lockdown advice. Holohan called for a jump to the highest level of COVID-19 curbs, Level 5, for six weeks in a letter to government, a number of local media reported.

“We’re giving this very active consideration,” Martin told reporters in Brussels, referring to Holohan’s letter. “The situation is very serious and we will need further action in relation to this.”

Senior Irish ministers will meet on Saturday to consider advice, he added.

The government moved three counties on its open border with Northern Ireland, which is badly hit by COVID-19, to Level 4 of its five-step framework on Wednesday and banned most visits to homes across the country. The other 23 counties remain on Level 3.

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters that while he had not seen the advice in full, the renewed call to move to Level 5 was not a surprise and that government had to consider the wider implications for the economy and society of any new action.

Ministers have pinned their hopes on Level 3 working in Dublin, the first county where the measures were imposed a month ago. Varadkar said while there has been some stabilisation in cases in the capital, there has not been enough of a change yet.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by William Maclean