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We have 2 weeks to turn figures around - or we lose Christmas

  • 'Opening pubs is not answer to street parties', says top medic

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Grogan’s pub on South William Street, which has been shut for much of the year

Grogan’s pub on South William Street, which has been shut for much of the year

Grogan’s pub on South William Street, which has been shut for much of the year

People have just two weeks to save Christmas and turn around the lockdown setback which has halted the fall in the spread of Covid-19.

Another five Covid-related deaths and 456 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday, putting the target of 50 to 100 cases a day by early December in jeopardy.

Among yesterday's cases there were 105 in Dublin, 85 in Limerick, 43 in Cork, 38 in Meath and 25 in Clare.

The remaining 160 cases are spread across 21 other counties.

Implored

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn implored people to make the most of the final two weeks of the six-week lockdown and warned there is only a "short period to turn this around".

Asked about pubs reopening he said public health doctors are clear that while publicans might contend these are controlled environments, there are "various levels of control".

He said the reality is that alcohol and social distancing "do not go together".

Referring to the street party in Dublin city centre over the weekend, he said that "just because we have seen scenes like we did on the streets in Saturday night does not mean that the answer is to open up pubs.

"People can be going meeting people for a drink like we saw on Saturday night and bringing it home which can have serious consequences for vulnerable people."

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team's (Nphet) Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said cases have stopped falling in the last six days and the infections probably happened between November 2-9.

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Dr Ronan Glynn

Dr Ronan Glynn

Colin Keegan

Dr Ronan Glynn

Dr Glynn asked people not to focus on the festive season unduly but to concentrate on the basics of stopping coming into contact with others as much as they possibly can.

"Do not worry about what might happen in a few weeks' time," he said, adding: "Don't look forward."

However, when Nphet meets on Thursday week, their recommendations based on the level of virus will impact how much the country can open up for Christmas.

The number of patients in intensive care rose by two overnight to 33 yesterday and 274 people with the virus were in hospital.

He said "at best" the spread of the virus had stalled but a number of indicators signal that the situation is deteriorating.

Asked what was behind the setback, he said there is no single cause.

However, he speculated there appeared to be many small outbreaks across the country and a significant level of community transmission, where people do not know where they picked up the virus.

Funerals

Commenting on reported outbreaks linked to funeral gatherings, Prof Nolan said that any time where people who know each other meet up, there is a natural tendency to let down their guard and assume the other people are not a risk.

However, he said the last thing people want is further deaths to occur from gatherings at these sad events.

Commenting on the street party which took place on South William Street Dublin city centre over the weekend, he said it is frustrating for the vast majority who are doing the right thing, and especially people who have been cocooning for a long time.

Asked what workplaces had seen outbreaks, he said there were some in food factories, the construction sector and a range of manufacturing settings.

None of the outbreaks in themselves are particularly large and that makes the jobs more difficult and point to one target, he said.

The reality is that there are "lots and lots and lots" of small clusters across the country and it makes it very difficult to put in place a policy measure to stop that.

"The key thing that will stop that in the coming days is people's behaviour."

He said there was a large hospital outbreak in Limerick and some of this had spread into the community.

There was also an outbreak there which was linked to student activity.

Prof Nolan would not speculate on what kind of recommendations Nphet would be making in two weeks' time regarding the extent to which the current Level 5 restrictions will be lifted.

He also refused to comment on proposals to ban take-away pints.

Yesterday's briefing was told that just 20pc of children have so far been given the nasal flu vaccines.

The HSE bought 600,000 doses.

Dr Glynn said that around 500 children are hospitalised with flu every year.

The precautions people are taking to prevent Covid-19 is believed to also helping to block the spread of flu so far this winter.


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