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Health

Ireland lifts local COVID-19 lockdown, national picture still 'uncertain'

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a man painting a mural, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Dublin, Ireland, August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland lifted an extended local lockdown on Monday in the eastern county of Kildare ahead of schedule, but the whole country remains under some of Europe’s strictest COVID-19 restrictions.

Ireland closed or limited business on Aug. 7 in three of its 26 counties - Kildare, Laois and Offaly - and their residents were barred from travelling outside their county.

Ten days later, an uptick in coronavirus cases prompted a significant tightening in measures nationwide. Authorities cut to six the number of visitors allowed in a home, banned fans from all sport events and urged people to avoid public transport where they could.

“While the situation in Kildare has improved, the national situation remains uncertain and the government continues to stress the importance of adhering to the public health advice and guidance to stop the spread of the virus,” the government said in a statement.

The local lockdowns had been due to run until Sept. 6, but Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the numbers in Kildare were now similar to the rest of the country. He also urged vigilance ahead of a review of the nationwide restrictions on Sept. 13.

Ireland has retained one of the strictest lockdown regimes in Europe and reopened its economy at a slower pace.

At 30.6, Ireland’s 14-day cumulative COVID cases per 100,000 people is higher than Britain, Germany and Sweden but below regional hotspots in Spain and France.

Ireland has reported 1,777 COVID-related deaths in total but only 14 in August, despite the rise in cases.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Gareth Jones

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