Covid-19: Ronan Glynn warns of 'critical moment' for Dublin

Micheál Martin: “We won’t be afraid to implement measures specifically in Dublin”

A further 159 new cases of coronavirus have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Saturday.

There have been two further deaths, NPHET said in its daily statement on the virus.

The Republic has seen a total of 30,730 cases of the virus reported so far and 1,783 deaths including today's figures.

Of today’s cases:

  • 70 are men  and 89 are women
  • 65 per cent are under 45 years of age
  • 51 per cent are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case
  • 23 cases have been identified as community transmission
  • 75 are in Dublin, 10 in Louth, 6 in Cork, 6 in Donegal, 6 in Meath, 5 in Laois, 5 in Wexford, and the remaining 46 cases are in Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath and Wicklow.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: “Forty seven per cent of the cases reported today are in Dublin City and County. For the people of Dublin in particular, this is a critical moment to address the spread of the disease in the community.

"Individual choices can make all the difference - reconsider your plans for the weekend, reduce the number of people that you meet and avoid social activities that involve large groups of people.

"Covid-19 is a highly infectious disease that can spread even when you have no symptoms. Remember, when you do meet with friends, family and colleagues, staying 2m apart is the best way to keep everyone safe.”

In the North, a member of East Belfast GAA club has tested positive for Covid-19. It has suspended all further activity until contact tracing and testing is complete. A further 104 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said with a total of 554 diagnosed over the last seven days.

Measures limiting social interaction between households amid soaring Covid-19 infection rates in the Belfast council area come into effect on Monday.

Meanwhile, new data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) on Saturday shows Ireland now has a 14-day rate of infection of 40.6 per 100,000 population. This compares with 31.6 a week ago. Ireland now has a higher rate of Covid-19 infection than many European countries including Italy (32.1) and Germany (21.1). The rate in The United Kingdom is 45.1, in the US it is 160.4 while the rate is lower in Canada (22.1) and Australia (4.4).

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government will not be afraid to reimpose Covid-19 restrictions in Dublin if it is deemed necessary.

Mr Martin held out the possibility that the restrictions imposed upon Kildare, Laois and Offaly recently could also be imposed upon Dublin in response to rising Covid-19 numbers.

In his first substantial interview with the Irish language media, broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Saturday, Mr Martin said the Government would have no hesitation in implementing restrictions specific to Dublin.

Currently infections in Dublin are running at more than 100 a day and there has been 1,055 cases reported in the capital in the last 14 days.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has warned that case numbers will double in the capital in the coming fortnight if measures are not taken to halt the spread of the virus.

Speaking on An tSeachtain le Máirín Ní Ghadhra on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, he said the Government had learned from its actions in Kildare, Offaly and Laois.

In early August, in response to surging cases in the three counties, the Government ordered all cafés and restaurants to close in the three counties except for takeaways.

It restricted all travel outside the counties except for work and ordered all cinemas, theatres, casinos, betting shops, bingo halls, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools, exercise and dance studios to close.

The restrictions were lifted after two weeks in Laois and Offaly and three in Kildare.

NPHET has recommended to the Government that the number of families allowed in any one house during visits in Dublin should be reduced from three to two. It also urged caution over the reopening of pubs in Dublin from September 21st.

Mr Martin told Raidió na Gaeltachta: “We’ll get advice from Nphet on Tuesday and we’ll have to weigh their advice. The most important thing about Dublin is how to get to grips with the virus to lower the number of cases and to put pressure on the virus. We won’t be afraid to implement measures specifically in Dublin, if that’s the way forward.

“We did that in Kildare, Offaly and Laois. I know that some counties have low number of cases, and I understand that argument, that there are differences and so the same restrictions shouldn’t apply.

“The new plan has flexibility from that side - we can assess the situation from county to county. The very highest level of restrictions is to implement measures on a national basis.”

The Taoiseach said that we all had to stick to the guidelines, but that the Government understood the need to be cognisant of the mental health impact of measures too.

“We know from the research that the situation with the virus has had a terrible impact on physical and mental health, and we need to focus on that.

“So we’re considering people’s lifestyles, and we’re looking at that in terms of sport and culture, we have to make exceptions and tailored plans for those sectors in this country.”

Epidemiologist Prof Sam McConkey said the wide differences being seen in infection rates in different parts of Dublin shows that a general lockdown of the city would not be justified.

The public should be told more about Covid-19 cases in their neighbourhoods .

“Dublin is 1.5 million people. It is too big to be treated as one area,” said Prof McConkey, “This is a geographically heterogeneous disease, and there should be a heterogeneous response to it.

“There are huge differences in different areas. We need strict restrictions and awareness in the areas where there is a lot of transmission. In the areas with less transmission we need to be less panicky.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Patrick  Logue

Patrick Logue

Patrick Logue is Digital Editor of The Irish Times