Dublin ‘could go to Level 4 or Level 5’ if cases continue to rise
Earlier it is done, the less restrictive the measures will be, says Prof McConkey
A man sits outside an empty pub in Dublin’s city centre, where many shops and businesses are closed. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Infectious diseases expert Professor Sam McConkey has warned that Dublin could need to go to Level 4 or even Level 5 as cases continue to rise.
Prof McConkey, who is head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), said this is the time to take action.
“The earlier we do it, the less duration and the less restrictive those measures will have to be,” he told Newstalk.
The rate of Covid-19 cases has gone up in four or five counties to almost the same level as Dublin and action is required now, he added.
“Unfortunately, if the number of cases continues to rise, whether in Dublin or in those counties, then unfortunately the only sensible thing to do is to go up to Level 4 or even Level 5.”
Success of lockdown questioned
The chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 Committee, Independent TD Michael McNamara, has said that one of the questions that will have to be answered at today’s meeting of the committee is what is the measure of success of restrictions and lockdowns.
There were also questions about testing and what was required to make the system effective, he said.
Mr McNamara added that there were concerns about the growing numbers requiring hospitalisation, the figure was at 90 on Tuesday night.
Swedish epidemiologist Dr Johan Giesecke will address the committee and will be asked about Sweden’s policy which had been to allow the virus to spread among the under-60s. This raised the question of should the vulnerable be shielded while the remainder of the population was allowed to move out and about, said Mr McNamara.
Many people over the age of 70 would not be prepared to do that, he said, so was it down to a matter of personal choice.
Mr McNamara pointed out that the Aids strategy in the US had been to encourage people to modify their behaviour. The Covid-19 message to young people could be not to congregate, but if they did, not to visit their grandparents afterwards.
While Sweden did not have a lockdown, it did have restrictions, pointed out Mr McNamara. There were also 27 Covid-19 patients hospitalised, which was particularly low, but still indicated that there were no easy answers, he said.
He said Ireland’s situation could not be compared with New Zealand because of the differences in population density and proximity to the nearest neighbour. “We are near a very densely populated country”.
Cases in young people
A further 334 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, 174 of them in Dublin.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that, despite making up just a quarter of the population, people aged 15 to 34 accounted for 40 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the past two months.
“This is not surprising as they are more likely to be moving about in the community, going to school, higher education or work, and keeping our economy and key services going,” he said.
In a fresh appeal to heed the public health advice, he said: “For teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s in particular, I know that what has been, and is being asked of you again, is extraordinary. This pandemic has impacted on your education, your employment, your relationships and your social lives.”
He said the vast majority have “done the right thing” and have heeded public health advice.
“But the disease is continuing to spread disproportionately among younger people at present. And so, I am asking you to stick with this and continue to follow the public health advice.”
He called on young people to “be a role model” for others.
The latest cases, announced on Tuesday evening, bring to 33,444 the total number of cases linked to the virus in the Republic.
No new deaths were reported, leaving the total number of deaths at 1,792.
Men account for 158 of the new cases and women for 175, and the gender was not given in one case. Some 72 per cent are aged under 45.