Wet pubs are unlikely to reopen soon, chief medical officer suggests
The deadly Covid-19 virus is striking older people again in an ominous signal the disease is spreading among the most vulnerable.
Public health officials yesterday revealed that 70 people over the age of 75 in the past fortnight have caught the virus after a summer when the disease mainly affected younger age groups.
"In the last week we have begun to see a delayed increase among older and vulnerable groups," said Maynooth University professor Philip Nolan, who tracks the virus. "Everyone must be cautious in their interactions with these groups."
There were almost "no cases" in the older age group in the summer up to the beginning of last month, he added.
During the worst months of the pandemic, the virus affected older people in he community and nursing homes. The over-65s account for more than 1,600 of the 1,777 Covid-19 deaths.
"Those aged under 45 have a one in 100 chance of being hospitalised with Covid-19, but if you're aged over 75 this rises to one in five," Prof Nolan said.
He wanted to "raise the flag" that if the number of cases in older people rises, hospitalisations will increase.
There were four deaths from the virus last month, but the number being hospitalised is rising slowly.
There were 42 in wards yesterday, including six in intensive care who tend to be older and with underlying conditions.
Prof Nolan was speaking as 89 people were diagnosed with the virus yesterday, with one new death - which occurred in June - reported.
Sixty-three per cent of yesterday's new infections were in the under-45s.
Prof Nolan said the spread of the virus "was stable or rising slowly".
The National Public Emergency Team (Nphet) will decide next week if current restrictions will be extended or toughened.
Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn appeared to dampen speculation that wet pubs will be allowed to reopen following the regulations debated in the Dáil to give gardaí greater powers to clamp down on public houses breaching Covid-9 rules.
He said the trajectory of the disease means cases are still higher than they should be and the impact of the reopening of schools must be evaluated.
"We are not fundamentally against the reopening of wet pubs," he said, adding that when they were due to reopen the spread of the disease worsened.
"We need a stabilisation over the next couple of weeks and then reassess where we are."
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the private online meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party he did not know why Ireland should be the only country in Europe with so-called wet pubs closed.
He said publicans should be given a chance to show they can safely reopen while adhering to rules.
The meeting heard that if Covid-19 restrictions are in place for too long, "we may end up with permanent damage".
Sources at the meeting said Mr Varadkar made a case for the reopening of pubs, saying that in most countries these are open with some restrictions so the Government is examining how this could be done here.
Yesterday's cases were heavily spread among some of the worst hit counties, with 53 new infections in Dublin and 15 in Limerick.
The remaining 21 cases are in Clare, Cork, Kildare, Kil- kenny, Laois, Leitrim, Long- ford, Meath, Offaly, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
The most-affected areas of the capital are Dublin west, north west and the north centre of the city.
Meanwhile, a second school in Dublin had to ask students to restrict their movements for 14 days after a pupil tested positive for Covid-19.
The primary school in west Dublin sent home a number of pupils who were considered "close contacts" of the student affected. An email was sent to parents.
The students in the child's class have been asked to follow all public health advice.
It is understood the classroom has undergone a deep clean.
One parent said the school is "following all protocol" and "we are all fighting this together".
The principal urged parents to "remain calm" and said these situations will arise for schools in the coming weeks.
Remote lessons will be provided for students required to stay at home.