All household visits banned in the Republic of Ireland as case numbers continue to rise

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the picture emerging in Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan is "very worrying".

All household visits in the Republic of Ireland are to be prohibited in the effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Cabinet also agreed on Wednesday evening to raise restrictions in three border counties - Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan - to level four of the national framework.

This will include limiting weddings to six, closing gyms, pools and leisure centres, closing of non essential retail and people being encouraged to work from home.

They will come into force from midnight on Thursday to apply until November 10.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the picture emerging in Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan is "very worrying".

He said the national figure of cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days was 190.7, but in Monaghan it was 360, in Donegal it was 353 and in Cavan it was 571.

"The implications for local hospitals and public health in these areas is obvious and very serious, so too is the need for immediate escalation in restrictions in those three counties," he said.

The announcement came after the Northern Ireland Assembly introduced tough new restrictions which will see schools, pubs and restaurants close for two weeks.

Mr Martin welcomed additional measures north of the border.

"The data coming out of the north is hugely worrying," he said.

"We will continue to engage with the northern executive in the coming days to discuss the situation, and the need for continued north south co-operation and co-ordination.

"As we have said before, the virus pays no heed to borders."

A further 1,095 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Ireland by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), on Wednesday, along with five more deaths.

Most of the latest cases were in Dublin (246), followed by Meath (185), Cavan (128) and Cork (118).

As of 2pm, 232 Covid-19 patients were being treated in hospital, of which 30 were in intensive care.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan described the situation as "extremely concerning".

"Every single one of us has a role to play," he said.

"We each need to reduce contact with other people as much as possible, so that means staying at home, working from home where possible, practising physical distancing and stopping discretionary socialising."

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said "a lot, if not most" Covid transmission is happening in private homes.

"All those things have to stop because if they don't stop the virus can't be stopped. And that's what we're asking people to do," he said.

Earlier Health Minister Stephen Donnelly firmly ruled out a move to close schools in the Republic as has been done in Northern Ireland.

He said: "I am in favour of keeping the schools open.

"I received a comprehensive report about a week ago looking at the positivity rates in schools compared to the community.

"The information I'm being given is that the schools are safe, within the context of a world where we have Covid.

"The positivity rates in the schools is about 1.9%, it's now above 6% in the community.

"We've seen right across the world, low transmission rates within children, and low transmission rates between children and teachers as well which is very positive."