Coronavirus: Restrictions in Kildare, Offaly and Laois recommended by NPHET

Positive Covid-19 test results have surged in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Photo: PA

Updated: 17:02

The State’s public health team has recommended new regional restrictions in Kildare, Offaly and Laois for two weeks following a large increase in Covid-19 cases in the counties.

Cafes, restaurants and pubs will close as well as cinemas theatres and museums. There will be no sporting events or matches. Gyms will also have to close.

Senior sources confirmed to The Irish Times that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is advising that from midnight tonight people in those areas will only be allowed travel within their own county unless it is for work or medical appointments, or for family reasons.

There will also be an exemption for those who need to travel for farming reasons. Indoor gatherings will be restricted to six people.

Some 226 cases of coronavirus have been identified in the three counties in the past 14 days – almost half the national total recorded over the period – with many cases linked to food processing plants in the region. A further 60 provisional cases are expected to be confirmed later on Friday.

On Thursday night it was revealed that 80 workers at O'Brien Fine Foods in Timahoe, Co Kildare have also tested positive for the virus, while a further 42 are being tested. Many of these cases were asymptomatic, the company said.

With the weekend looming, public health doctors are growing increasingly worried about asymptomatic cases spreading the virus and driving up community transmission.

Any regional lockdown will have to be signed off by ministers at a Cabinet meeting that is currently ongoing.

A press conference is expected after 6pm today. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was first briefed by the acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn before they informed the Taoiseach Micheál Martin of the plans in Government buildings this afternoon.

On Thursday night, Dr Glynn urged those in Kildare, Laois and Offaly to pay particular attention if they have any coronavirus symptoms and to double down on health measures.

Meanwhile, chairman of the NPHET Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Prof Philip Nolan, told the briefing that the reproduction number of the virus is now estimated to be 1.8.