Tougher restrictions will have to be considered in the next week or two if a new clampdown on gatherings in households fails to halt the spread of Covid-19.

This was the stark warning last night from infectious disease consultant at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Professor Sam McConkey. He was speaking as it emerged a clampdown on gatherings in households will be introduced in a last-ditch attempt to curb the surge of the virus.

Visits to a family home will be restricted to a maximum of six people from one other household over the next three weeks. The latest attempts to slow the spread of Covid-19 comes as a further 442 cases were confirmed, with four people dying of the virus.

170 are in Dublin, with 47 in Cork, 28 in Donegal and 23 in Meath, 21 in Galway and 12 in Roscommon.

The five-day average for cases is now 412 and 18 counties have an increased incidence rate. There are also 119 people in hospital, with 20 in critical care, and there were 32 deaths in September.

New Department of Health statistics revealed that the Donegal area of Lifford-Stranorlar had the highest coronavirus incidence rate in the country, jumping from 336.1 to 602.6 per 100,000 since last week. Celbridge in Co Kildare and the Kimmage-Rathmines area of Co Dublin had the second and third-highest rates, with figures of 305.2 and 282.8 respectively.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned “we need to do everything we can” to avoid moving the entire country into Level 3 restrictions.

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