Covid-19 spreading in homes via doorbells, towels and cutlery, Varadkar warns

Family dinners, play dates contributing to spread of disease and led to restrictions, Tánaiste says

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on-the-spot fines for those who breach face mask regulations would be in place in the coming weeks. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on-the-spot fines for those who breach face mask regulations would be in place in the coming weeks. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA

 

Coronavirus is being spread through people’s homes by visitors pressing doorbells, using towels and sharing cutlery, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has warned.

Explaining why there was a need to ban home visits across the country, Mr Varadkar said there was a fundamental difference in people’s Covid-behaviour in domestic settings.

“At home people aren’t [taking safety precautions] so much. Some people think it’s the student house parties . . . there’s a bit of that but actually what is happening in much greater volumes is the family dinner at the weekend, it’s the few friends over for drinks,” he said, including children’s play-dates in the mix of scenarios responsible for potentially dangerous, otherwise normal social interactions.

“People are getting too close to each other, they are staying together for too long,” he said. “They’re passing the virus by pressing the doorbell, by sharing a spoon, by using the bathroom and leaving it on a towel. All of those things have spread disease and that is why we’ve had to do this.”

The Tánaiste was explaining the latest set of social restrictions brought into play by the Government on Wednesday in a bid to curb increasing case numbers, which breached 1,200 on Thursday.

“The thinking is that outdoors is better than indoors and when it’s in a controlled public environment people are much more likely to stay apart, sit at the table, and sit at tables that are apart from each other. Whereas when there’s five or six people in a sitting room, it’s different.”

In an interview with Matt Cooper on Today FM, he conceded that far from accepting ongoing, dynamic checks on their lives, people may begin to resent them as the pandemic continues into the later stages of the year.

“Of course there is a danger of that. It was very different back in the spring when all of this was new and we were asking people to do this for the first time and it was clearly working. Asking people to do it for a second time is very difficult and the numbers are continuing to rise.”

However, he said the recent reintroduction of Garda check points would serve to remind people of the seriousness of the public health situation at a time when traffic levels suggest people are still going to work.

He said he hoped the Level 4 measures in Border counties are enough to curb the disease, and said restrictions in Ireland are now among the tightest in Europe.

In the aftermath of the budget and its expansion of health spending, Mr Varadkar said a massive increase in intensive care (ICU) beds was not necessarily the answer it might seem to be. He pointed out that the Covid-19 mortality rate for those who end up in intensive care is between 20 and 40 per cent.

“The solution is not to have 1,000 ICU beds that are full of Covid patients...the solution is to reduce the number of people who get sick and require ICU in the first place.”

Meanwhile, on-the-spot fines for those who breach face mask regulations - as opposed to bringing offenders to court - would be in place in the coming weeks, he said.