Indoor hospitality reopening expected to proceed despite Covid surge

Infections rising but vaccinated people deemed safe to dine and drink indoors

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn: “There’s a really big reservoir of people who are still vulnerable to this disease over the weeks to come.” Photograph: Colin Keegan

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn: “There’s a really big reservoir of people who are still vulnerable to this disease over the weeks to come.” Photograph: Colin Keegan

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Plans for the reopening of indoor hospitality are expected to go ahead despite the emerging surge in Covid-19 cases among young people, senior Government figures say.

There is growing concern at the rapid rise in infections which has seen daily case numbers rise to levels not seen since February. However it is expected this should not affect the advice that it is safe for vaccinated people to go indoors for drinking and dining, according to three people involved in the discussions at a senior level.

Last night, the Department of Health reported a further 1,179 Covid-19 cases, with 22 patients in intensive care and 91 in hospital.

Data circulated to senior officials and Ministers has demonstrated the extent to which the surge in cases has been driven by younger people, with infections “rising very rapidly in young adults”, according to a summary of the research.

But senior sources say their expectation is that this should not lead to increases in hospital admissions at a scale that would lead to significant pressure on the system.

Hard to predict

Fresh modelling undertaken late last week by the National Public Health Emergency Team and circulated to senior officials and Ministers has indicated that predicting the impact of the new cases on hospital admissions in the coming weeks is proving very difficult. However, sources say they do not expect the concern over the rising numbers to require a change in policy this week.

It comes as restrictions on international travel are being lifted from Monday, with the EU’s Covid pass coming into operation in the State. Indoor hospitality is expected to reopen from next Monday, July 26th.

The leaders of the three coalition parties are scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the deteriorating case numbers, and officials said they were in daily contact with public health advisers and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. There is likely to be a meeting with Nphet head Dr Tony Holohan in the coming days, while the Cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday to approve the final reopening plan in advance of next week.

Senior sources acknowledge they expect a fraught week ahead as cases inevitably rise in advance of the reopening.

Earlier on Sunday, the Health Service Executive chief executive said that Ireland would experience a “bumpy journey” over the next few weeks.

Vaccines vs Delta

In a tweet on Sunday morning, Paul Reid noted, however, that positivity from testing fell on Saturday from 8.4 per cent to 6.7 per cent, with 77 per cent of people partially vaccinated and almost 64 per cent fully vaccinated.

“A white-knuckle ride of vaccines versus Delta but let’s get there,” Mr Reid said on Twitter.

The deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, tweeted that there had been some 2,550 cases of Covid-19 confirmed over the past two days and called on those not yet vaccinated to be very careful about indoor settings.

Dr Glynn struck a cautious note. “Unfortunately over the past few days we’ve begun to see these high cases translate into increasing numbers in hospital and in our intensive care units,” he said. “There’s a really big reservoir of people who are still vulnerable to this disease over the weeks to come.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has postponed a visit to London to meet British prime minister Boris Johnson because Mr Johnson has gone into self-isolation after close contact with health secretary Sajid Javid who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Johnson and the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, had intended to avoid self-isolation as part of a “pilot study” but reversed the decision after fierce criticism. Rising case numbers in the UK, where more than 50,000 new cases have been recorded in recent days, have led to warnings that millions of people will be told to self-isolate as close contacts of confirmed cases.

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