Ireland's Taoiseach Micheál Martin, in an official broadcast, has announced that Ireland will move into a full Level 5 lockdown as COVID-19 figures continue to rise.

In a TV address, broadcast on RTE, Martin said the full Level 5 lockdown will last "at least" one month. 

“This situation is extremely serious. The numbers will deteriorate further over the coming days”@MichealMartinTD says the latest surge is different to the second wave, and that with the virus growing exponentially, it is not time for nuanced response |

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 30, 2020

This decision comes after two Cabinet meetings addressing the growing COVID case numbers and the increase in those being hospitalized with the coronavirus. 

Level restrictions mean a ban on all household visits, the closure of non-essential retail, and a 5km limit on travel. The restrictions also mean the closure of sports facilities including golf courses and tennis courts, with the exception of elite sports such as Gaelic games and horse racing. There has also been an eviction moratorium put in place. 

Taoiseach Martin said in his address that schools have proven to be safe but the Christmas break will be extended until Jan 11. 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, speaking ahead of Martin's address, "We are seeing a very rapid increase, an ongoing increase in cases, we are also seeing a very rapid increase in hospitalizations."

He continued "I, and Government, are watching what is happening in the UK very closely. What we are seeing now in NHS hospitals is, because of this variant which appears to be far more contagious the UK hospitals are beginning to become overwhelmed.

"So really the focus right now has to be on doing everything that is necessary to surprise this virus while we get vaccinating "

Assume you have COVID

Earlier on Wednesday, the Head of Ireland's Health Service Executive, Paul Reid said that the public should assume they have the coronavirus if they developed any symptoms and isolate accordingly before they get their test results, The Irish Examiner reported.

Reid said that while testing will continue the system is almost at capacity. 

“The next big drive to bring it (transmission) down is public actions not testing and tracing. You just can’t build capacity to trace and follow what is happening in the community right now,” Reid said.

National Lead for Testing & Tracing Niamh O' Beirne said HSE contact tracers had their busiest 24-hours on Tues (Dec 29). They called 2,000 people with COVID-19 and 9,000 close contacts.

She told the Examiner "What is also rising is the number of people with higher close contacts, people with 15 and many people with 30 close contacts."