Coronavirus: Limit of 50 in churches ‘strange’ and ‘disappointing’ - Diarmuid Martin

Covid-19 circulating at ‘one in a million’ level in the community - McConkey

A limit of 50 people attending churches has been described as “strange” and “disappointing” by Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

Religious buildings and places of worship are among the places which are allowed to reopen on June 29th under plans announced by the Government on Friday. But the guidelines also limit indoor gatherings to 50 people.

Dr Martin said parishes had placed huge energy into preparing to be ready for reopening on June 29th. “It is obviously disappointing that with the reopening for public worship there is a blanket restriction to the participation of a maximum of 50 in these first weeks.

“ I have already expressed my view that in this initial period we should be patient and to allow the new situation to settle down,” he said in a statement.

“However, it seems strange that in a church with a capacity of 1,500 people which has been scrupulously fitted out for conformity with social distancing and with clear indications about movement and interaction of people within church, that only 50 people might be present, while we all see a situation in which large retail outlets brimming with people.

Dr Martin said he hoped it would be possible to come to “ a more reasonable and responsible situation in which numbers permitted to attend Mass could be proportionate to the size of each church”.

The vast majority of the Irish economy and society will reopen at the end of month as the country prepares to almost fully exit the lockdown imposed following the spread of the coronavirus.

The Cabinet met on Friday to sign off on a new roadmap which will see the majority of businesses reopen on June 29th.

From then places of worship, gyms, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, leisure facilities and hairdressers can reopen their doors alongside museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls.

Most music venues can open their doors, as well as bingo halls, arcades and amusement parks.Gatherings will be limited to 50 people indoors and 200 people outdoors until July 20th. This is later due to rise to 100 people indoors and 500 people outdoors, although a further review will be carried out by the public-health team in the coming weeks

One in a million

Meanwhile ospecialist in infectious diseases said the virus is circulating at a “one in a million” level in the community.

Professor Sam McConkey said on RTE Radio that the current 10 to 15 daily cases were part of a known chain of spread but the number of unexpected cases were about one in a million.

Latest figures show twenty-four people with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 remain in intensive care units in eight acute care hospitals.

Sixteen of the patients in intensive care are confirmed cases down from a peak of 160 in April. Eight are suspected to have the virus with 10 individuals on ventilation, seven of them confirmed cases and three suspected cases.

In the past 24 hours there have been no admissions to intensive care and five people have been discharged.

According to HSE daily figures 12 of the confirmed cases are in ICU in Dublin hospitals with three in Cork hospitals and one in Galway University Hospital.

The Mater hospital has the largest number of coronavirus cases at 10 followed by Beaumont with six and Limerick and Galway hospitals with five each. Sixteen hospitals have no cases.

There are 168 suspected cases of coronavirus for which results are awaited and with the largest number in Dublin at 65, followed by Limerick with 51 suspected cases.

There were 98 empty critical care hospital beds last night and 506 general beds available in the system. A total of 258 critical care beds are occupied including the 16 patients with Covid-19.

Currently there are 440 critical care beds in the system, 363 of them open and staffed, apart from the additional beds provided for the Covid-19 surge

A total of 13 new cases were confirmed yesterday confirmed to a peak of 1,068 in mid-April.

There have been a total of 25,368 confirmed cases of the virus with 1,714 deaths, two in the last 24 hours.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times