Ireland’s coronavirus restrictions are being “significantly” tightened after the number of cases increased rapidly over the past two weeks.

All businesses have been told to let employees work from home, new limits have been placed on outdoor gatherings and the government has warned people to avoid public transport.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the new rules will be in place until at least 13 September, following a spike in cases over the last three weeks as he blamed “a large number of people” for flouting the rules.

However, he said schools will reopen but did not mention when that would happen.

Announcing the measures, he said all state bodies responsible for monitoring cases must step up their efforts.

Mr Martin told a news conference: “We’re absolutely not at a stage where we can return to normality. We are at another critical moment.

“We’re now seeing multiple clusters throughout the country, in people’s homes, in multiple workplaces and in a number of other social settings.”

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Ireland’s government is also considering extra legislation to give police more powers to enforce existing rules.

The new measures include:

  • Outdoor gatherings limited to 15 people
  • Indoor gatherings(apart from weddings) limited to six people – down from 50
  • Restaurants must close by 11.30pm
  • Sports can only take place behind closed doors
  • Public transport should be avoided where possible
  • Those using private transport where different households are present should wear masks
  • Over-70s are asked to limit interactions, avoid public transport and shop during designated hours

For several weeks, Ireland had one of Europe’s lowest infection rates but the country’s rate over 14 days has gone up to 26 per 100,000, from four.

A total of 190 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, Ireland’s health minister Stephen Donnelly said.

He said last week Ireland had 533 cases compared to a weekly low of 61 earlier this year.

Mr Martin said: “The evidence is that a large number of people are acting as if the virus is no threat to them or that it is okay to take a few more risks.

“Many people seem to believe that if they or those they are socialising with have no symptoms there is no problem.

“We are at a point where we need to recommit ourselves to key behaviours and to accept additional controls.”