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Up to 150,000 people could return to work next week - Irish minister

FILE PHOTO: Ireland's Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland March 24, 2020. Steve Humphreys/Pool via REUTERS

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Between 100,000 and 150,000 people will be able to return to work in Ireland over the next week or so as all shops, restaurants, gyms and pubs serving food reopen, Business Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

The number of people claiming temporary coronavirus-related jobless benefits has risen by almost 150,000 since Ireland began to tighten COVID-19 curbs in September, two-thirds of them since the highest level of constraints was put in place on Oct. 21.

Varadkar, who is also deputy prime minister, encouraged people considering returning from abroad for Christmas not to travel unless it was essential, but said that if they did travel, they must follow the quarantine rules.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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