Coronavirus: Two further deaths and 21 new cases reported

Spain, Portugal and France ‘not at safe level’ to be on travel ‘green list’

A doctor  holds a Covid-19 test kit at a mobile coronavirus clinic  in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

A doctor holds a Covid-19 test kit at a mobile coronavirus clinic in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/EPA

 

There have been two further deaths related to Covid-19 and 21 new confirmed cases, according to figures released by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Saturday.

This brings the death toll from the virus to 1,753 and the total number of cases in Ireland to 25,750.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said the validation of data has resulted in the denotification of one death and one case, with the figures on Saturday reflecting this.

Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer, Department of Health, said “arming ourselves with knowledge is the best defence we have against Covid-19”.

“Make sure you know the symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of smell/taste – and act quickly in isolating and phoning your GP as early as possible if you experience them. Do not adopt a wait and see approach,” he said.

“Once again, we must each play our part in stemming the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland - follow the public health advice, reduce your social contacts, keep a distance of 2 metres and plan to see others outdoors where possible, do not organise or attend house parties and wear a face covering when in shops or on public transport.

“Let’s not lose sight of our collective goal: to suppress Covid-19 in the community and thereby protect our health, that of our loved ones, and that of the most vulnerable across our society.”

On Friday NPHET reported 34 new cases – the highest number of daily confirmed cases in more than a month .

Figures here and across Europe are being closely watched as the Cabinet is expected to sign off on its final green list of safe countries for unrestricted travel on Monday.

The Government plans to ease travel restrictions to and from some countries with the publication of a list of countries on Monday with similar coronavirus infection rates to Ireland. Travellers returning from those countries will not have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Higher coronavirus infection rates in the popular holiday destinations of Spain, Portugal and France should rule out their inclusion on a “green list”, a leading virologist has said.

One leading doctor on NPHET, which informs Government policy, has said that the public should not expect the most popular sun destinations to be on the list.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, chair of the expert advisory group to NPHET, said the typical destinations for Irish holidaymakers were “not at a safe level” right now.

A closely watched metric on the rate of infections in countries, which is collated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, shows that Spain, France, Portugal and Croatia have considerably higher numbers of coronavirus cases than Ireland.

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus infections stood on Friday at 4.3 per 100,000 people for Ireland compared with 17.7 for Spain, 11.1 for France, 48.5 for Portugal and 27.6 for Croatia.

Unnecessary risk

“It would be very difficult to justify putting a country that is established above our own 14-day cumulative incidence rate because it is very risky and an unnecessary risk,” Dr De Gascun told The Irish Times.

Eight European countries have lower rates of infection than Ireland based on the figures on 14-day cases: Norway, Finland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta.

Epidemiological data from shortlisted countries will be tracked this weekend to watch for spikes in infections, with the final number of countries subject to change over the coming two days.

A number of additional countries are considered borderline for inclusion and may not be on the initial list but could be added when the list is reviewed again in two weeks’ time.

Infection rates in Italy and Greece were on Friday only marginally higher than in Ireland.

Meanwhile on Saturday Ryanair said it is “absolutely not” putting its business interests ahead of public health concerns and “travel is not the bogeyman” when it comes to the spread of Covid-19.

The airline’s chief executive Eddie Wilson once again castigated the Government for what he said was its “half baked quarantine” and he called for travel restrictions to be lifted for countries across the EU, with, he suggested, the exception of Sweden.

He denied that he was making the call to protect Ryanair and pointed out that flights to and from the Island of Ireland amounted to about 8 per cent of its total business.

Instead he expressed concern for Irish tourism operators who, he warned, were facing bankruptcy unless visitors from overseas were allowed to travel to the country unimpeded by any Covid-19 related restrictions.

“Saying we are closed for business with this half-baked quarantine is not going to work,” Mr Wilson told RTÉ Radio One’s The Business with Richard Curran.