DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland reported 200 new COVID-19 cases arising from multiple clusters across the country on Saturday, the highest daily amount since the beginning of May that the country's chief medical officer described as "deeply concerning".
Ireland has reopened its economy at a slower pace than most European Union countries but that did not stop a rise in cases over the last two weeks that led to the first localised reimposition of some restrictions last week.
Health chiefs are due to decide next week whether to lift the controls in the adjoining counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly, and advise government the following week if the economy can move into a twice-delayed final phase of the reopening plan that would allow all pubs to open.
"We now have multiple clusters with secondary spread of disease and rising numbers of cases in many parts of the country. This is deeply concerning. NPHET (Ireland's public health team) will monitor this extremely closely over the coming days," Ronan Glynn said in statement.
He advised everyone, especially those over the age of 70 or medically vulnerable, to limit their contacts.
While the health department has been able to identify the origin of most cases since the outbreaks emerged, just 68 cases on Saturday were so far confirmed to be associated with localised outbreaks or as close contacts of a confirmed case.
Two-thirds of the new cases were in two of Ireland's 26 counties, with 81 in Kildare and 56 in neighbouring Dublin.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alison Williams and Ros Russell)