Ireland  restricts bars and restaurants to table service and maximum groups of six while issuing a 'very stark' over fears of Omicron variant in run-up to Christmas

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Indoor events have 50% capacity and bars and restaurants have six-person limit Infections are near record highs despite 91% of eligible people being vaccinatedHealth officials fear Omicron could evade vaccines and cause further spike 

Ireland has announced harsh new Covid restrictions in a bid to halt the Omicron variant after ‘very stark’ warnings from health chiefs. 

Under the measures that will be in place from Tuesday until January 9, indoor events will have to operate at 50% capacity, a measure promoters say will make concerts unprofitable.

Bars and restaurants, which have been subject to various levels of restrictions since the start of the pandemic, must not accept bookings for more than six people and must only offer table service, the government said.

Ireland has announced harsh new Covid restrictions in a bid to halt the Omicron variant after 'very stark' warnings from health chiefs

Ireland has announced harsh new Covid restrictions in a bid to halt the Omicron variant after ‘very stark’ warnings from health chiefs

People should only welcome visitors from a maximum of three other households to their home, it said.

Nightclubs, which opened for the first time in over 18 months in October, will have to close under the new rules. 

Infections in the country are near record highs since early November, even though 91 per cent of eligible people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.

The death rate has been far lower than during earlier waves and case numbers have stabilised. 

But health officials are concerned that even if Omicron does not evade vaccines, it could significantly increase already high infection numbers.

‘If Omicron takes hold and if it is more transmissible, the potential for a very serious crisis is obvious,’ Prime Minister Micheal Martin said in a televised address, saying that he had received ‘very stark’ advice from health officials.

‘The risk associated with proceeding into the Christmas period without some restrictions… is just too high,’ Martin said.

He added that the advice from health officials is ‘very stark’.  

‘It is utterly devastating,’ said Angela Dorgan, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts lobby group, which has said restrictions during the pandemic have been unfair to the arts and nightlife.

Martin said the government would ensure that the entertainment sector had the necessary financial support.

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