Covid-19: 299 cases and two further deaths reported in State
Donnelly defends decision to relax restrictions but warns cases are expected to rise
Two deaths and 299 cases have been reported in the State concerning Covid-19. Photograph: iStock
A further 299 cases of Covid-19 and two deaths related to the disease have been reported in the State.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said there has been a total of 2,052 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland and a total of 72,241 confirmed cases.
Of the new cases confirmed on Sunday, 158 are men and 141 are women, with 67 per cent of them under 45 years of age.
Some 94 cases were in Dublin, 41 in Donegal, 27 in Wicklow, 14 in Louth, 13 in Limerick and the remaining 110 cases are spread across 20 other counties.
There are currently 257 patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals, with 30 of those being treated in intensive care units.
Earlier on Sunday Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly defended the Government’s decision to open up hospitality and allow household visits to take place for a two-week period in December and early January.
The Cabinet on Friday approved the reopening of hotels, retail, hairdressers, churches, gyms and museums from Tuesday, December 1st, when the country will move to Level 3 restrictions with some modifications, he confirmed.
Mr Donnelly argued that the Coalition had in fact restricted household visits to a greater extent than had been recommended in early December, only allowing them to take place from the 18th, in order to allow for hospitality to open.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, he said the Government is “adhering closely” to Nphet advice, but said the team “have to advise purely on public health grounds and then the Government has to make decisions on public health but also societal and economic concerns as well”.
The Wicklow TD said while he does not expect to reintroduce restrictions before the end of December, both the Government and Nphet expect cases will rise again before the end of the year. He would not, however, rule out the reintroduction of restrictions if the situation deteriorated rapidly, but said this was not expected.
“If something very, very serious happened, if we saw a huge increase in cases and we saw uncontrolled events happening all over the place, obviously government will keep that under consideration,” he said.
Asked if he expected that restrictions would come back in January, he said: “You can never rule anything out”, urging compliance with the rules on social distancing especially in gastropubs and restaurants.
Mr Donnelly was also asked about research commissioned by the Government from consultancy firm EY, which suggested upsurges in infection occurred following the reopening of wet pubs around the country, and also in areas that had experienced success in the GAA championships.
Asked if he was concerned about celebrations driving infection in the wake of upcoming All-Ireland finals, he said: “It needs not to happen”.
“It’s not the GAA’s fault (but) we do have evidence that after club championship wins in various counties, there were celebrations that we know happened and they do correlate unfortunately in those counties and in those local electoral areas with some very big spikes,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said he anticipates that rollout of vaccines for coronavirus could begin “early next year”, and that he expects those in vulnerable categories and healthcare workers would be prioritised for inoculation, if that was recommended by the State’s vaccine taskforce. The group, led by Prof Brian McCraith, is also examining the best way to administer the vaccine, including whether it should be done through the GP network.
Asked about the possibility of Public Health Doctors taking industrial action, he said he understood their concerns, but that he had submitted a business case for a consultant contract for the grade, and urged Doctors not to strike.
“I think it would be very regrettable and disappointing that public health doctors would threaten to walk off the pitch during a global pandemic.”