From Tuesday, December 7, nightclubs will close until January 9 and bars will only be allowed to offer table service with a maximum of six people per table in bars and restaurants.
Speaking in a televised address, Micheal Martin said: “The risks associated with entering the Christmas season without certain restrictions… are just too high. “
He added that the advice from health officials is “very harsh.”
According to Irish broadcaster RTE, Mr Martin said he understood the frustration the restrictions would cause, but that ‘the protection of public health is the primary responsibility of the government and we will do whatever is necessary to fulfill this task “.
Mr Martin added that it was not a question of “going back to the days of blockages” but, in fact, of adapting to risk.
RTE said the restrictions included one meter between tables in bars and restaurants, no reservations for multiple tables, and people must wear masks when not seated.
Ireland’s COVID unemployment benefit scheme will also temporarily return to help people who lose their jobs in the entertainment industry due to the new rules.
Many governments have announced stricter rules due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, including travel restrictions and a ban on large gatherings.
Scientists fear that it may spread faster and escape the protection offered by a previous infection or vaccination.
But much remains unclear as experts scramble to study cases of the variant – which was only recently discovered in southern Africa.
Cases have now been detected around the world and so far are very low compared to the dominant variant Delta. However, the numbers are expected to increase.
The UK’s recall jab program is stepped up to help tackle any spread of Omicron and mask rules are back for shops and public transport.