. . Ireland will close restaurants, pubs and some shops on Christmas Eve and they may not reopen until early March as the elderly are "very concerned" about the sudden increase in COVID-19 cases, the government said Tuesday. Prime Minister Micheal Martin said there was no evidence that a new, virulent variant of the virus that has isolated neighboring Britain has reached Ireland, but the safest approach is to assume it has. Ireland has one of the lowest incidence rates of COVID-19 in Europe after moving in early October to temporarily shut down parts of the economy.