Coronavirus: Warning against complacency as 126 new Irish cases confirmed

Irish abroad told there is ‘no guarantee air routes will continue to operate’ in weeks ahead

 

A further 126 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the State, bringing the total number of people diagnosed with Covid-19 to 683.

The number of deaths in Ireland linked to the pandemic remains at three.

Following a decrease in confirmed cases between Thursday, when there were 191 cases confirmed, and Friday, Department of Health chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said it was not a time for complacency.

“Every citizen who is practicing social distancing, who is taking precautions to limit the spread of this virus, is doing their country a service,” he said.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said people needed to be mindful of their mental health during the crisis.

“Try to keep to a routine, maintain a healthy, balanced diet and remember social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation,” he said.

Irish abroad

Tánaiste Simon Coveney on Friday evening issued a travel advisory to Irish citizens who are abroad, which said there is “no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate for the coming weeks”.

“For this reason, where commercial flights are still an option, we recommend that people who wish to do so make arrangements to return to Ireland as soon as possible,” he said, adding that he was aware this was a “stressful situation for citizens”.

“We are working with airlines to show maximum flexibility to those passengers who need to change their existing flight arrangements.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the availability of transport from Britain to Ireland was subject to change. Flights and ferry services are continuing to operate between the islands but that some flight operators had already announced that services will reduce in the coming days.

“We recommend that Irish visitors to Great Britain closely monitor public announcements regarding the scheduling of flight and ferry services, and be prepared to adjust their travel plans accordingly,” the department said.

The latest Department of Health figures show Monaghan is the only county in the State where a case is yet to be confirmed, with 51 per cent of the total diagnosed among people living in Dublin and 15 per cent in Cork.

Clusters

Of those diagnosed with the virus, 55 per cent are male and 27 clusters involving 142 cases have been identified. The median age of confirmed patients is 44.

Twelve people have been admitted to intensive care after falling ill with Covid-19 and 32 per cent of those infected have been taken for hospital treatment.

Healthcare workers account for 114 of the cases, with 36 of these associated with foreign travel.

Community transmission has been responsible for 40 per cent of cases, foreign travel for 39 per cent and close contacts with an infected person is the reason for 21 per cent.

Nine new cases have been identified in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases there to 86, with one person having died.

However, the true figure number of cases is likely to be significantly greater, as people with mild symptoms – defined as a new persistent cough and/or fever – have been told to stay at home and self-isolate.

Social welfare

Meanwhile, employers will be permitted to provide payents of more than €203 per week to staff who have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic without facing any penalty.

Details of the new arrangements are expected to be announced by the Government on Friday evening.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty earlier indicated that the Government was working on a new arrangement following criticism from trade unions and other groups of employers who topped-up incomes of temporarily laid off workers beyond the new Covid-19 social welfare payment of €203 per week potentially being penalised.

“In a time of crisis with a sudden sharp shock we need to do things as quickly as we can - one of these things is to support workers who lose their jobs another is to support employers to keep workers in jobs,” she said.

“Where we can do both at the same time we will. That is the idea of the employer refund which we put together in less than two days over the weekend. This allows the employer to pay the worker €203 and receive a refund from the State.”

The Minister added: “ We did this quickly and launched it as soon as we could because time was of the essence and we didn’t want the perfect to get in the way of the good.”

Emergency powers

Separately, the Taoiseach has said he very hopeful that new emergency powers given to gardaí to respond to the coronavirus pandemic will not need to be used.

The measures, legislated for on Thursday, give members of An Garda Síochána the right to make businesses close, break up public gatherings and send people into isolation.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Gard College in Templemore, Co Tipperary on Friday, Leo Varadkar said Ireland had a history of policing “by consent, never by coercion”.

“And I hope that is never going to change as a consequence of this crisis,” he said.

Asked if he expected the kind of very strict lockdown measures in place in some EU countries being enforced in the State, he replied that he did not believe it would be the case.

Community spirit

“I think the culture in continental countries, like France, and in Asian countries is different to Ireland,” he said. “In Ireland we tend to pull together in times of difficulty. And in this emergency I have seeing enormous community spirit and good hygiene and social distancing.

“I’m hoping we aren’t going to need the kind of authoritarian response that has been the case in other countries. But we need to have those powers on the books just in case.”

Mr Varadkar said the fact there were two jurisdictions on the island did “create difficulty”.

“There’s no denying that. There are differences in the kind of restrictions being put in place north and south of the border,” he said.

“But I think as the week has gone by we’ve seen more alignment...And I think we just need to keep in close contact, working with the (Northern) Executive and the British government.”