Coronavirus: Pub reopenings in danger as NPHET expresses serious concerns at case growth

Number of Covid-19 cases rises by 32 but no new deaths reported in the State

All pubs were due to reopen on Monday. Photograph: Andy Rain /EPA

All pubs were due to reopen on Monday. Photograph: Andy Rain /EPA

 

Serious concerns were expressed on Tuesday evening at a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) which could endanger plans to reopen the remainder of the State’s pubs on Monday.

It is understood that concerns were raised at NPHET by multiple participants regarding the current trends in infection rates in the country, as well as uncertainty over how the virus will behave.

There is significant concern among the public health team over how these trends could interact with an increase in congregated settings reopening.

The Government will now have to consider these matters before a key cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening at which moving to the next phase of re-opening the economy will be discussed.

There were no new deaths of people with Covid-19 for the third day in a row but 32 new cases reported in the State NPHET on Tuesday . This is the highest number of new cases in over a month.

There have been a total of 1,746 Covid-19 related deaths in the State and 25,670 confirmed cases. Over the past week, 49,264 tests were carried out, of which 157 tests were positive, giving a positivity rate of 0.3 per cent.

A group representing publicans cautioned against any delay to reopening pubs saying that it would be a “hammer blow to thousands of pubs and their local communities around the country.”

“The vast majority of these pubs are small outlets run by families who are on first-name terms with their customers and far removed from the crowded venues and streets that concern Nphet,” said Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland.

“As controlled venues we believe these pubs should be allowed open as they are far safer than uncontrolled house parties and pose little threat to public health.”

Mr Cribben said that restaurants and pubs serving food that had already opened in the third phase of relaxations on June 29th were having to cope with larger crowds.

“Opening all pubs would allow for better social distancing and reduce the risk of infection,” he said.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar earlier told the Dail that while there had been an “uptick” in the number of new Covid-19 cases “I do not think the increase has been so enormous that at this stage it should prevent us moving to stage 4, but that is not a decision for me on my own”.

He said a decision would be made by Cabinet on Wednesday evening about whether to allow pubs nightclubs, casinos and other entertainment businesses to reopen, following advice from NPHET.

Fianna Fail TD Cormac Devlin said businesses needed clarity because they had to order stock, train staff and prepare their premises but only had four days before the scheduled date on July 20th for the next phase of re-opening the economy.

Mr Varadkar did not know whether the decision would be affirmative or negative for-reopening but he hoped it would be possible and a decision on Wednesday evening “would give those sectors the best part of a few days to prepare”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said house parties are a growing concern in contributing to the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

There had been a lot of commentary about tourists from the US visiting Ireland, he said, but Department of Transport information “suggests the figures are low”.

However there was an issue about house parties contributing to the rising number of cases.

Mr Martin told Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick that he had been speaking to Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn and concerns were raised about the increases in coronavirus cases in the last fortnight.

“Congregated indoor settings are presenting a problem and having 30 or 40 people in house parties is an issue.”

Mr Martin said that following the meeting on Tuesday of NPHET the Cabinet will meet on Wednesday and consider its advice when it discusses phase four of the roadmap to re-open the economy and society and international travel.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that last weekend more than 60 motorhomes and caravans were located in the village of Carlingford in his Co Louth constituency. “This was way above what is normal,” he said pointing to comments from Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Monday that visitors should not come to Ireland unless they restrict their movements for 14 days. He said that meant “absolutely nothing” unless it was enforced and there were “many tourists from the USA out and about in our cities and towns.

“I understand that in the USA, people from the state of Texas are unable to visit their neighbours because of Covid-19 restrictions, yet they can travel freely to Ireland.”

The Taoiseach pointed out that since the start of the pandemic travel had never been banned officially. “We have to be very strong in terms of travel as well in terms of our messaging around travel, and with a view to keeping the rate down. That would be our objective in the coming weeks,” he said.

Mr Martin added that the Government’s “overarching consideration” in the coming weeks is to get schools open and to get the “non-Covid strand of medicine opened up and to free up our hospital capacity to do that”.

Elsewhere the North’s Department of Health recorded no new Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland in its latest daily bulletin published on Tuesday afternoon, leaving the official death toll from the virus at 556.

Just one fatality has been reported in the North in the last 10 days.

There were just two new cases of coronavirus taking the number of confirmed cases to 5,790. So far, 122,403 people have been tested for the disease in Northern Ireland.

While the death toll reported by the department is 556, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency reported last week that 839 deaths involving Covid-19 had occurred by July 3rd.

The department figures report deaths of patients who had tested positive for the virus whereas the Nisra figures are based on information entered on death certificates.

Following the decision to introduce compulsory mask-wearing in shops in England, the Northern Executive is to examine whether it should impose the same rule.

“The use of face coverings is now mandatory on public transport, except where an exemption applies. They are also strongly recommended in indoor environments where social distancing may be difficult,” said an Executive spokeswoman on Tuesday.

“The Executive keeps the issue of face coverings under continuous review and any changes to the advice will be communicated to the public,” she added.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said there must be clarity from the Executive around the wearing of masks in shops, and that it should be for the PSNI rather than staff to police any change in the rule.

“Should the Executive introduce the compulsory wearing of face masks, then retailers and their staff should not be enforcing nor policing such rules,” he said.Additional reporting: PA

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