IRELAND will today be the first European country to return to a nationwide shutdown as Covid-19 cases rocket — in a bid to save Christmas.
From midnight all non-essential retail businesses in Ireland will have to close and bars and restaurants which will be only allowed to offer takeaway or delivery.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged people to support the measures in a last-ditch bid to save Christmas and ensure that retailers could look forward to a "bumper" December.
He said: "I understand the sense of disappointment, loneliness and despair this announcement will bring.
"These are the toughest of times but the Irish people will prevail."
The six week lockdown will mean people told to stay within three miles from home.
Schools will remain open and elite sport — like horse racing and Gaelic football — will continue.
The building industry will not be stopped by the clampdown and people will be able to meet one other household outdoors.
While weddings will stay at 25 guests and funerals 10 people until the end of the year.
The public will be asked to work from home except for essential workers, and pubs, restaurants and cafes will only be able to provide takeaways and deliveries.
Ireland's Covid restrictions are run on a five-level system, with the harshest measures being level 5.
These are the toughest of times but the Irish people will prevailTaoiseach Micheál Martin
Ministers believe that giving businesses until Wednesday is enough time to prepare — with many non essential shops and hairdressers set to close.
Off-licences could be forced to operate under reduced hours, but this is under review.
The government is also considering allowing certain non-essential stores to open under a click-and-collect service.
While pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve takeaway.
LEVEL 5 LOCKDOWN
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan indicated that any new restrictions would not be introduced immediately saying "you don't just flick a switch".
Asked about a timeline for introducing new measures as he arrived for a sub-Cabinet meeting on Monday, he said: "We'll decide that.
"I think one of the lessons previously is you don't just flick a switch, you have to give people a wee bit of notice. But Cabinet will have to decide that."
Green Party leader Mr Ryan said he hoped the decisions reached today would give clarity to the public.
He said: "I hope there can be because that's the important part of it.
"The Tanaiste put it right the other day, you need a series of indicators, but that will be for Cabinet to decide. "
Commenting on the decision to make the lockdown six weeks, he said: "I think it's getting things right.
"It's complicated, there's a huge amount of implications for people's everyday lives.
"I think it's appropriate that we try and get the arrangements and the details right in that time."
The move comes after a record spike in cases over the past few days.
Today there were 1,031 new cases of Covid-19 but no further deaths announced in Ireland.
There has now been 50,993 cases of the killer bug in the republic - bringing the total number of infections past 50,000 for the first time.
The death toll has remained at 1,852.
Of the cases confirmed today, 511 are in men while 518 were reported in women.
BED DEVILMan Utd ace Aaron Wan-Bissaka 'fathered love child behind girlfriend's back'
HOLD FIRECircuit breaker lockdown NOT needed & 'unfair' to drag everyone into it, says JVT
BABY DEATHMum, 18, charged with killing baby daughter 'left her home alone for six days'
BLOOD, SWEAT & TIERSPM forced Manchester into Tier 3 as Burnham deal collapsed - over £5m
WEIGHT ESCAPEUK's 50st fattest man hoisted out of flat by crane due to fast food addiction
ADDRESS THE NATIONBoris Johnson and top medics to make 5pm Covid announcement today
While 70 per cent of those diagnosed are under 45 years of age.
The median age of those reported today is 30 years old.
There were 235 new cases recorded in Dublin, 232 in Cork, 60 in Galway, 47 in Limerick, 47 in Kerry, and the remaining 410 cases are spread across 21 counties.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS - STAY IN THE KNOW
Don't miss the latest news and figures - and essential advice for you and your family.
To receive The Sun’s Coronavirus newsletter in your inbox every tea time, sign up here.
Get Britain’s best-selling newspaper delivered to your smartphone or tablet each day – find out more.