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Explainer: How other countries have managed local lockdowns after Covid-19 clusters

The recent increase in cases in Ireland is largely associated with clusters in three counties.

Victorian Police officers and ADF personnel are on Bourke street in Melbourne.
Victorian Police officers and ADF personnel are on Bourke street in Melbourne.
Image: PA

THE GOVERNMENT YESTERDAY announced a set of regional restrictions in Kildare, Laois and Offaly after a significant rise in the number of confirmed cases across the three counties.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn has said almost half the new cases over the past two weeks were located in those counties and warned members of the public to “double down” their efforts to follow public health advice.

An announcement was made on a specific package of measures for these three counties, including advice to residents not to travel outside of their county.

People travelling into these counties are asked to do so only for essential reasons. Pubs and restaurants are to operate as takeaway only. Childcare facilities will remain open as will retail outlets.  

Residents of the three counties are advised not to use public transport unless necessary  and are asked not to share private vehicles with people from outside of their household. 

The restrictions came into effect from midnight yesterday and last for two weeks. 

Health officials had previously said local lockdowns could be expected as a measure to contain clusters. Other countries have already had to re-impose restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the disease in certain cities or districts. 

Scotland

On Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced lockdown restrictions were to be reimposed on the city of Aberdeen after 54 new cases emerged in a coronavirus cluster.

A five-mile travel rule has been put in place and residents are being told not to enter each other’s houses. All indoor and outdoor hospitality businesses were told to close by 5 pm that day.

Residents have been told they should not leave the city for any holidays – even to other parts of Scotland or other parts of the UK. The government has also advised people outside of Aberdeen not to travel there for leisure purposes or to visit family and friends.

Currently schools are still closed, with a planned phased return from 11 August which is still due to go ahead.

These restrictions are to be reviewed next week and could be lifted or extended, depending on the spread of the disease over the seven-day period.

Australia

Restrictions were introduced last Sunday in the country’s second-largest city Melbourne, closing non-essential businesses and requiring hundreds of thousands more people to stay at home in new regulations. They are expected to be in place for six weeks.

The restrictions ban large gatherings and prevent residents from going outside except to work – if it’s an essential business – to exercise, to buy essentials or to access medical services.

Food shopping must be done within a 5km distance from people’s homes and only one person from the household can go shopping per day. Exercise must also take place within that 5km zone.

There is a curfew on residents between 8 pm and 5 am and people cannot have visitors into their homes unless it is for the purposes of receiving care, or if it a person they are in an “intimate personal relationship with”.

Most children have returned to studying remotely, but schools are still open for children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Restaurants and cafes can only trade as takeaway and delivery businesses. Although retail businesses have had to close to customers, they can operate a pick-up, delivery or click-and-collect service.

People are not allowed to travel outside of Melbourne and visitors are only allowed into Melbourne if it is for work, study, medical care, caregiving or for food shopping. People can also travel through Melbourne to somewhere else, but it is recommended they do not stop unless it is for one of these reasons.

Police in the state of Victoria – which includes Melbourne – have vowed to crack down on anyone breaking lockdown restrictions, issuing 196 fines on one day last week for everything from failing to wear a mask to breaching an overnight curfew or collecting a pizza.

Victoria Police can issue on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 (€1,006) for individuals and up to $9,913 (€6,040) to businesses.

Spain

In July, officials re-imposed restrictions on the regions of Galicia and Catalonia. 

Travel in and out of the coastal district of A Mariña in Galicia was severely restricted for five days after officials linked local outbreaks to bars in the area. 

Face coverings were mandatory outdoors and gatherings were limited to 10 people.

In the Catalonian district of Segrià, non-residents were told to leave and residents were advised against travel between towns within the district, with police checkpoints in place. 

England

The UK’s first local lockdown was in Leicester after infections rose there at the end of June.

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Residents of Leicester and nearby towns are being told to stay at home unless they need to go on an essential journey.

Non-essential shops that had been allowed to re-open just two weeks before this were told to close their doors again. Other planned re-opening times were delayed, including those for hairdressers, bars and restaurants.

Schools closed except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Travel in and out of the city was also discouraged at this time.

Restrictions have been eased already, including the re-opening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers earlier this week. From 3 August people could also go on holiday with people they live with.

However, there are still restrictions on having visitors inside homes or even in gardens and residents are still advised against meeting up with people outside their households in a bar or restaurant.

The government is expected to make an announcement today on the status of this local lockdown. It is likely that the restrictions currently in place will be lifted from Monday.

There are other areas of England that have had restrictions reimposed.

People in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were also told this week that they cannot meet people from different households indoors. Pubs and restaurants can remain open but people are only supposed to go with others from their own households.

New laws are to be implemented to allow police to take action if they have meetings in their homes and gardens. Many places of business remain open and people can travel to and from their offices.

The threat in Ireland

Health officials confirmed 98 new cases of the virus in Ireland yesterday. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said a “nuanced and more sustainable” approach to re-opening the country is now needed.

He said that we “cannot afford to wait and see” with Covid-19 “because the disease is not waiting”, and that the government was prepared to make difficult decisions to stem the spread of the virus.

“We all need to understand that this virus is still a deep, urgent threat,” Martin said. “It is merciless and unrelenting. It won’t be a case of moving forwards step by step.”

He said the main priority for the government was ensuring schools could re-open at the end of this month, and actions being taken now were aimed at ensuring they could welcome back students again for the new school year.

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