Further restrictions to protect vulnerable from Covid-19 to be considered

Sharp increase in confirmed cases prompts ‘deep concern’ in national emergency team

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last night said the National Public Health Emergency Team would meet on Monday to review and discuss the increased case numbers. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last night said the National Public Health Emergency Team would meet on Monday to review and discuss the increased case numbers. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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Further restrictions to protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups from Covid-19 are to be considered today by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) amid “deep concern” about a sharp increase in confirmed cases.

No deaths and a total of 266 additional cases of the disease were reported by health authorities over the weekend, including 200 on Saturday – the highest daily total since early May.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last night said the team would meet today to review and discuss the increased case numbers.

Health officials would “make any necessary recommendations to Government which are required to protect the vulnerable, continue with the resumption of healthcare services and ensure the safe reopening of our schools”.

Sources indicated that the team would consider potentially “significant” new measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr Glynn briefed Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan yesterday and is understood to have outlined concerns about house parties and socialising being responsible for the growing number of cases.

Senior Government sources said there was growing anxiety about “Covid fatigue” among the public now people were travelling around the country after being advised to holiday in the State and could also visit other peoples’ homes.

Dr Glynn warned that every county had experienced some new Covid-19 cases in the last fortnight and that this would need to be taken into account by NPHET.

“The phased reopening of the country has afforded people the opportunity to socialise with each other again,” he told RTÉ. “However, some are doing this recklessly and undermining the efforts of the majority of people around the country who are following public health advice. This cannot continue. This pandemic isn’t over just because we are tired of living with it.”

Ministers fear that the disease could again heavily impact on nursing homes and that visiting restrictions for these settings may be needed again.

Prof Sam McConkey, of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, warned that the low number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care, and the low number of deaths relative to the number of new infections being reported, would change.

“We are seeing outbreaks in workplaces amongst younger people, but once it gets into nursing homes we would see a much higher mortality,” he said on Sunday.

‘Very significant increase’

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Sunday said that Ireland’s 14-day average of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people had risen to 22.1. Dr Glynn said this was a “very significant increase and escalation”. The rate compares with 18.6 per 100,000 for the UK, 41.2 for France, and 16.3 for Germany.

Prof McConkey said that if the disease is spreading “really widely” among younger people at present, it is likely to spread to the elderly “unless we change what we are doing, and do something different”.

The Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 is to meet on Tuesday to discuss any recommendations from NPHET and Ministers will also discuss the current situation in nursing homes. The Health Service Executive is also preparing a paper for the committee detailing the current response times in terms of testing and contact tracing.

The three party leaders were told on Sunday that response times vary county by county. The public health team will also meet on Friday to consider the current restrictions introduced in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly in response to a spike in cases, and to decide whether these need to be extended.

A Government source said last night that there had not yet been a discussion at senior level about other localised lockdowns despite speculation that restrictions could be rolled out in other places such as Co Tipperary.

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