Covid-19: Cases to be reviewed over weekend ahead of decision on phase-four reopening

Government to ‘watch and monitor carefully’ what happens in coming days, says Martin

The acting chief medical officer warned ‘we may be beginning to see more cases which we cannot link to outbreaks or close contacts’.  File photograph: The Irish Times

The acting chief medical officer warned ‘we may be beginning to see more cases which we cannot link to outbreaks or close contacts’. File photograph: The Irish Times

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The number of Covid-19 cases will be monitored “very carefully” over the weekend, the Taoiseach has said ahead of a Cabinet decision on Tuesday on moving to phase four of the reopening roadmap.

Last night marked 38 additional cases of Covid-19 reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team following a spike of 85 new cases on Thursday. The acting chief medical officer warned “we may be beginning to see more cases which we cannot link to outbreaks or close contacts”.

Phase four, due to commence on August 10th, would mean pubs which do not serve food reopen as well as gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors.

Mr Martin yesterday said the spike in cases was a concern and the Government will “watch and monitor very carefully” what happens in the coming days. “We have to see if a pattern has emerged or if it was relating to specific clusters that have emerged in recent days,” he said.

Dr Ronan Glynn last night said mass testing had taken place in relation to a number of known outbreaks. This included an outbreak at Irish Dog Foods in Co Kildare. Some of the workers who lived in two direct provision centres have been moved to isolation facilities at Citywest, Co Dublin.

Of the 123 cases in the past two days 84 are linked to known outbreaks, 19 are community transmission and 20 are under investigation. The median age of Friday’s cases was 30 years of age. However, no further deaths were notified.

Dr Glynn aid the importance of isolating as soon as people had flu symptoms “cannot be overstated”. The public health emergency team said a survey of GPs found most patients with Covid-like symptoms in the past week had not been self-isolating.

Meanwhile, staff in the public service have been told that they will now be required to return to the work premises “when and as necessary and deemed appropriate by their employer”. Previous advice stipulated that public sector workers would continue to stay at home and work remotely where possible.

The new circular indicates that “any continuation of home working must be balanced with the requirement to continue to provide the most effective and efficient services to the public”. Employers have been asked to consider new temporary arrangements including flexible shifts, staggered hours, longer opening hours, blended working patterns and weekend working.

“There should be engagement between management and unions/associations, in line with appropriate arrangements, for any such continued or new arrangements.”

In the circular, dated July 30th from the Department of Public Expenditure, nearly 340,000 staff in the public sector have also been told that they will not have to restrict their movements if they return from a country on the Government’s travel “green list”. They were previously told that if they engage in non-essential travel abroad, they would effectively have to use up holidays or applying for unpaid leave on return.

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

In other developments the Government has reversed a decision to exclude proprietary directors from the new Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme after small business owners warned the move would lead to the closure of companies.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said late on Friday that he had asked Revenue to reinstate directors who retain ordinary employees on their payroll to the scheme and has also asked his department to review the provision.

Elsewhere an interim report was published by the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee setting out 19 recommendations on nursing homes whose residents were disproportionately affected by the outbreak.

Advocacy groups welcomed the report’s acknowledgement that a lack of statutory clinical oversight in private nursing has been “one of the biggest weaknesses” exposed by the crisis. Recommendations include that health authorities take steps to ensure adequate staffing and that infection control is in place ahead of any second wave.

It says no patients should be discharged from hospitals to nursing homes with substandard infection control and that, more broadly, there is a need to develop independent living models for older people.

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