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With fears of 5,000 cases a day, is another lockdown inevitable?

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Professor Sam McConkey made the warning about Dublin

Professor Sam McConkey made the warning about Dublin

Professor Sam McConkey made the warning about Dublin

A tougher anti-Covid 19 crackdown on Dublin may be on the way amid forecasts cases could shoot up to 5,000 a day at the end of next month.

This could mean the loss of more post-lockdown freedoms and comes after weeks of pleas for action to curb the spread appear to have gone unheeded by too many.

Infectious disease consultant Dr Sam McConkey of Beaumont Hospital has cautioned that if the recent rate of infection continues it would lead to 5,000 new cases of a the virus a day by the end of October. So has valuable time already been lost?

Forecast

The figures for the rising levels of the virus in Dublin, since mid-August in particular, tell their own striking story. Cases have swollen ten-fold in the last two months.

The virus has been creeping up and taking hold. In the two weeks up to last Sunday there were 1,282 cases. This compares to the last fortnight of August when there were 717 cases.

Worst-hit

Dublin north west has the highest 14-day incidence rate of 131.5 per 100,000. Dublin south east is also badly affected with a rate of 113.2 per 100,000. Even Dublin south, which has the lowest rate at 42.6 per 100,000 is at worrying levels. Contrast that figure with the rate for Co Cork at 9.6 per 100,000.

Outbreaks in homes

There have been several outbreaks of the virus in people's homes, while cases have also been linked to socialising in groups where physical distancing has not been observed.

Community transmission is also a problem, with people catching the virus and unable to say what the source was.

New medicine

Dublin is being singled out for tougher restrictions than the rest of the country. Wet pubs cannot open, people are being advised to limit travel outside the county and if they do travel to only meet one other household.

No more than two households should meet at any given time. Visitors to people's home should be limited to six from one other household. If going to a pub or restaurant you should not meet up with someone from more than one other household in a group no more than six. There are those who think this is too "softly softly" although understandably the owners of wet pubs are clearly distraught.

Going a step further

Prof McConkey has said leadership and restrictions are needed but ultimately it all comes back to the individual - how we behave day to day, how business owners and managers operate, how people socialise. He suggested if people are going out to a restaurant to stick to members of your own household. Make the most of the outdoors.

The basic messages on physical distancing, handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes and wearing a mask were never more needed. The National Public Health Emergency Team will meet to review the Dublin figures and decide if more restrictive measures should be imposed.

Level 3

If Dublin moves up to Level 3 and ranks in a more serious zone it could mean more restrictions. Religious services would move online. Places of worship could remain open for private prayer. Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions would be closed.

Libraries will be available for e-services and call and collect. There would be additional restrictions for indoor dining. Visits to nursing homes would be mostly suspended.

Hospitals

The fear is that if the spread of the virus continues, more vulnerable people will fall seriously ill and deaths will increase.

The Irish Council of General Practitioners' Clinical Lead on Covid-19, Dr Nuala O'Connor, said: "Dublin numbers have increased ten-fold in the past two months.

"If this continues, we won't be able to continue to protect our older population and those who are medically vulnerable and run the risk of a more severe course and higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

"We will struggle to keep the virus out of hospitals, nursing homes, or direct provision centres or workplaces."