Three counties on the Irish Central Plateau are subject to new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced measures for Kildare, Laois and Offaly after an increase in Covid-19 cases.
In a special address to the nation on Friday, Martin said the virus remains a "deep and urgent threat".
The new rules include restricting movement except for work and other essential travel; Restaurants and pubs that serve close-up meals other than take-away, delivery and limited al fresco meals; and the closure of indoor entertainment and sports venues such as cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries and bingo halls.
Visits to prisons, acute hospitals, and nursing homes are suspended except for compassionate reasons.
People have been asked to travel to these areas only for work.
However, retail stores can stay open with face masks, and open childcare facilities and schools can stay open.
Outdoor amenities, including playgrounds, remain open even with social distancing.
"The households in these counties are asked to limit the number of visitors to their homes to no more than six people from no more than three households," said Martin.
"Outdoor gatherings should be limited to 15 for organized activities."
Mr. Martin added, "We recognize that our responses as this pandemic progresses must be more nuanced and sustainable."
He said Ireland is "still good by international standards" but described localized clusters as "a serious problem".
The Irish chief physician, Dr. Ronan Glynn, said on Friday evening that 289 cases of coronavirus had been recorded in counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly in the past 14 days.
"I fully understand that today's decision will be very disappointing and will cause significant disruption for many people in these countries who have already made significant personal sacrifices in support of public health interventions during this period," he said .
"However, we believe that measures today will help us control the disease and we hope that they will only need to be used for the next two weeks as is currently recommended."
Mary-Lou McDonald, president of Sinn Fein, responded to the move by claiming that communities “pay the price for lack of testing and inspection in meat factories and drop-off centers.
“This needs to be addressed urgently. The community must be protected. "
In the meantime, Labor Senator Mark Wall has called on the public in Laois, Offaly and Kildare to heed the new measures.
“I know these measures will be difficult to adhere to, but we need to follow them to keep the virus from spreading. I would respectfully ask you to take the steps you have announced for the next two weeks, ”he said.
“It's about saving lives that would otherwise be lost and protecting our parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and vulnerable people. Covid-19 knows no borders and it is important that we do not allow uncontrolled transmission in our community. "
A food processing facility in Co Kildare shut down at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday in Timohoe after 80 employees tested positive for coronavirus.
On Friday, the company announced that another six cases of coronavirus had been detected, adding that the level of asymptomatic infectivity appears to be very high.
The GAA has suspended all activity in Kildare, Laois, and Offaly counties, including all collective training, games, face-to-face meetings, and camps.
"GAA grounds and facilities in the affected districts should remain closed until further notice," it said.
"The position will be reviewed next Monday by our advisory group for Gaelic games, Covid-19. Thereafter, the clubs in the affected countries will receive further advice."
The Department of Health's daily update on Friday included reports of four more deaths and 98 new cases. That brings the total number of deaths in Ireland to 1,772 and the number of confirmed cases to 26,470.
The reproductive number of the virus in Ireland is now estimated at 1.8.