Covid-19: Government says Ireland on ‘very uncertain’ trajectory as 1,782 cases reported

Coalition to set out plan for further easing of restrictions and return to offices later this month

A further 1,782 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported today, the highest number since late January, the Government has said. Photograph: EPA

A further 1,782 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported today, the highest number since late January, the Government has said. Photograph: EPA

 

A further 1,782 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported today, the highest number since late January, the Government has said.

In a statement following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19, which discussed how the disease is progressing and the vaccination programme, the Government said the seven day average of infections stood at 1,300 with “Donegal, Louth and Galway showing very high incidence rates”.

“The trajectory remains very uncertain,” the statement added. “While incidence of serious illness and hospitalisations is lower than previous waves, the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospital is steadily increasing, with 193 in hospital and 28 in ICU, as of this morning.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) later issued a statement saying there were 189 Covid-19 patients hospitalised as of this morning inlcuding 30 in ICU.

The Government said the next phase of easing restrictions would involve plans for resuming activities in the live entertainment, culture and arts sectors.

A “road map” for the easing or removal of remaining restrictions is now due at the end of August.

Offices reopening

The Coalition said this would also set out “the sustainable reopening of offices and other indoor activities”.

“As with every other re-opening, the Government’s objective is that once a sector re-opens, there should be no going back.”

The Government said it “understands the frustration” felt by sectors that are still closed or severely restricted, especially those indoors, with much of the reopening focused on outdoor activities and a partial re-opening of indoor hospitality.

“That is why remaining restrictions and closures relate mainly to indoor activities and to live events and mass gatherings. For example, large gatherings and crowds that involve socialisation, including consumption of alcohol which reduces inhibitions, have all been shown to aid the spread of the Covid-19 disease.”

In addition to this, the Government said it “notes the concerns” expressed by church leaders about the public health guidance relating to religious ceremonies, and especially communions and confirmations.

It said it “hopes to see those restrictions lifted in September” subject to public health situation at the time.

A number of sources said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin intends to write to Catholic Church leaders informing them of the move. There will also be engagement with faith leaders over the coming months ahead of the resumption.

A number of Catholic bishops have already given the go-ahead for Communions and Confirmations to take place in their dioceses later this month in defiance of the current Covid-19 guidelines.

A spokesman for the Dublin Archdiocese, where Archbishop Dermot Farrell has given the go ahead to Communions and Confirmations, said further clarity was need in light of thepublication of new guidelines on gatherings.

“Following today’s update the Attorney General needs to confirm that regulations do provide for religious services in pods of fifty, and thereby advise Government to update its guidelines on the Sacraments accordingly,” he said.

Restrictions maintained

However, the current level of restrictions will be maintained during August until the latest wave of the disease recedes, with a focus on continuing the vaccine pregame and public health measures, and taking further advice from Nphet.

“Based on those considerations, by the end of August, the Government will publish a road map for the easing or removal of the remaining restrictions.”

A total of 385,000 community tests were conducted in July, which the Government said was among the highest monthly numbers recorded since the start of the pandemic. The statement added that “testing capacity remains satisfactory, with additional surge capacity available if required”.

The Government was also told that more than 6 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered to date, with 3.2 million having had at least one dose.

The committee heard that nearly 85 per cent of people aged 16 and over have either registered or received at least one vaccine dose.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said HSE walk-in vaccination centres would again be open in communities around the State this weekend.

“This time last year, we could not have hoped for such highly safe and effective vaccines to aid us in suppressing this virus, nor that we would in fact have a range of them to use,” he said in a statement.

“I strongly encourage anyone still awaiting their Covid-19 vaccine to avail of these vaccination centres this weekend. These vaccines are very effective at protecting against the worst effects of COVID-19. Not only do they offer personal protection, but the more of us who receive a vaccine, the safer we all are as a group.”