It was not until late September that Ireland reopened  its “wet” pubs, which serve alcohol but not food. Restaurants had reopened in June, but drinking-only establishments had to wait three more months. By the time they were set to let the beer flow again, they had endured the European continent’s longest shutdown, having first closed in March. 

Even if the pubs in the capital city of Dublin remained closed, the reopening was seen as a major step in a country where pubs have a cultural significance that goes far beyond the consumption of alcohol. “The mental health benefits this opportunity will offer people are enormous,” an executive with the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said at the time.

Only it didn’t last. On Monday, Ireland became the first country to reimpose the kind of restrictions that marked the spring, after seeing infection rates spike across the nation. 

On the whole, the European continent has more new daily cases, per 100,000 people, than does the United States, according to statistics compiled by Our World in Data. Outbreaks have been especially severe in Belgium and the Czech Republic. Only a few nations, such as Finland, are currently having success in driving the rate of infection in the right direction. 

That has dismayed ordinary citizens and frustrated experts and elected officials who thought they had the virus defeated. 

“If you need to do lockdowns, you need to do lockdowns,” said George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco. “We’re entering a period of extreme risk.”

Now some European countries are pinning their hopes on a so-called circuit-breaking strategy that recently slowed a second viral wave in South Korea. Circuit breakers have also been implemented in Singapore and Israel.

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