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Dublin urged to stop family events as cases could double in just 14 days

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Shoppers have been encouraged to wear masks in Dublin city

Shoppers have been encouraged to wear masks in Dublin city

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Shoppers have been encouraged to wear masks in Dublin city

Dubliners are being urged to stop entertaining friends and wider family in their homes - even for occasions like christenings - as the capital is on course to be the epicentre for the Covid-19 virus.

Cases of the virus are growing in the capital by 5pc a day and if this continues, the numbers will double every fortnight.

The stark warning was delivered at yesterday's Covid-19 Department of Health briefing where, in a major setback, three new deaths from the virus in recent days were announced.

There were 84 newly diagnosed people across the country with the virus, 51 of whom were in Dublin - which is now the country's virus hotspot while it remains relatively stable in most other counties.

The National Public Health Emergency Team meets to review the latest worrying trend today and a strong recommendation - at the very least - to households in Dublin to stop socialising in each others homes is expected to emerge.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the rise in infection in Dublin is mainly driven by "social interaction within and between households" and half the new cases are linked to private homes.

If at all possible, invitations to people from different households should stop for the moment, including celebrations like holy communions, but weddings could go ahead, he added.

Essential

Prof Philip Nolan of Maynooth University, who leads a team tracking the virus, said people in Dublin should confine themselves to "essential contacts".

Nationally, the virus has got a greater grip in recent weeks and the five-day average is now 172 cases a day - compared to 100 to 120 - and there has been a "progressive and clear" increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus.

However, ICU admissions remain low.

In another ominous development, there have been 89 cases of the virus in people over 75, nearly a doubling among this age group in the last fortnight.

Yesterday's cases included 51 in Dublin, six in Offaly, five in Kildare and another 22 were in Cork, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow.

The majority of counties are stable or in some cases seeing a decrease in the incidence of the virus over the last fourteen days while Dublin, and to a certain extent Limerick and a small number of other counties, are going in the "opposite direction".

The R number - how many people on average a person with the virus will pass it on to - is "close to one" for the country as a whole, but jumps to 1.4 in Dublin.

It needs to be under one otherwise cases will grow, health officials warned.

Asked about cases in schools so far since they opened Dr Colm Henry of the HSE said there are 4,000 schools and so far cases have been diagnosed in pupils in fifty four.

None of the children picked up the virus in school but were infected outside.

In one school, more than one case was identified. But there is no evidence of an outbreak in any school, where one child passed it on to another or an adult.

"The greatest risk of transmission to school children is in the home setting," Dr Henry said.

"International experience reveals that reopening of schools has not been associated with significantly increasing community transmission.

Instead, it is transmission of virus within communities that poses the greatest threat to schools.

"Again, we urge all households to think through their social plans. Keep within the six indoor and 15 outdoor person gathering limits and apply physical distancing."

Questioned on the reopening of 'wet pub' Dr Glynn said urged pub owners to sit down with their staff and take a "look at the plan they have in place around coronavirus cases".

"If something does not change, we will be in a worse position in a few weeks," he added.

It came as the chances of imminent new Covid-19 restrictions being imposed in Dublin and Limerick were played down yesterday by the Taoiseach and ministers.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would want a "very good reason from Nphet as to why we will do anything more drastic or beyond what is being done in other cities around Europe that may have a higher incidence that we have".

Taoiseach Micheál Martin added: "No specific decisions have been taken, but there are a lot of concerns in terms of rising numbers in Dublin and Limerick.

"We will continue to engage with Nphet and keep an eye in that regard."