(NPR) – Ireland will be the first European country to return to a nationwide shutdown as COVID-19 cases rise, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Monday. Nonessential retail businesses are ordered to close. Residents are expected to stay within about 3 miles of their homes, except for work and other essential activities.

The country is entering its highest level of coronavirus restrictions for six weeks, beginning Thursday. The country expects 150,000 people to lose their jobs over the next “couple of days,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.

“We’re making a preemptive strike against the virus, acting before it’s too late,” Varadkar said during a news conference Monday. “Our objective is to change the structure of the virus to flatten the curve again to get it under control.”

The government told residents to stay home and exercise only within 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) of their homes. Police will continue to use road checkpoints to deter longer and nonessential journeys. Varadkar said there will be a penalty for travel beyond that distance, but he added that details are being finalized. There will be exemptions for work and essential purposes. READ MORE

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