Dublin should be at Level 4 of the Government’s Living with Covid-19 strategy, Dublin GP Ray Walley has said.
The Glasnevin based doctor said he was particularly concerned that under Level 3 up to 25 people could gather at a function such as a wedding.
Public health experts are expected to recommend new restrictions for Dublin on Thursday to limit the spread of coronavirus, as fears grow that infections are heading out of control.
On Wednesday night, public health experts expressed a high degree of alarm at the current rate of infection, with one saying he was “more concerned than at any point in time since late April”.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Dr Walley warned that the age profile is increasing (among Covid patients) and this will have an impact “downstream”.
The Nation Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Thursday. If it finds that infections in Dublin have not stabilised and further action is required, preparations will be made for an incorporeal Cabinet meeting on Friday to give effect to its findings.
That could mean that Dublin would be subject to tighter restrictions than the rest of the country. They include a ban on social or family gatherings indoors or outdoors, additional restrictions on indoor dining, as well as people being told not to travel outside the county. No matches or events will be allowed and no spectators allowed at any games that do take place.
Dr Walley said the concern was that the rate of infections had increased because of social gatherings, this could spread to older people who have a higher morbidity rate and require more hospitalisation.
“It is like flooding on flooding, it takes longer to go away. All of this takes a long time to recover.”
Nphet has to consider putting Dublin at Level 4, he said, and there also needs to be more positive messaging. People should be told what they can do, not what they cannot do. They also need to know how to maintain their health while living with the virus.
Dr Gabrielle Colleran of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association warned that there was an urgent need to double ICU beds and number of consultants as Ireland has half the EU average of ICU beds and lowest level of consultants.
Last winter was the worst winter with regard to trolleys, the issue needed to be tackled now, she added. “We need to have enough staff to deal with this.”
Meanwhile, Immunology expert Tómas Ryan has said the Government should provide a strategy to help the country get to Level 1 by Christmas.
Dr Ryan, assistant professor of biochemistry and immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said the framework announced by the Government this week was not a strategy, it was a structure for which a strategy was needed to show how the country could get to Level 1.
“We want a way of moving through this so we can get to Level 1 by Christmas,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Active measures were required, he said, such as a more aggressive system of testing and tracking and more regional measures allowing individual counties to take control of their own situations.
Dr Ryan said there were “great signals” coming from Nphet and he applauded the comments by Professor Philip Nolan, the chair of Nphet’s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, who warned that cases of Covid-19 are now growing exponentially and every citizen in the State must take immediate action to reduce their contacts or it will not be possible to get the pandemic back under control.
This was not the time for alarmism, said Dr Ryan, but it was the time for realism. If Dublin does go to Level 3, “hopefully” it will help to suppress the virus. If current infection rates were to continue there could be a potential doubling of cases every two weeks, he warned. Action was needed to turn around the situation.
On Wednesday night, Nphet announced that there have been 254 more cases of Covid-19 in Ireland – of which 136 are in Dublin – and three further deaths confirmed.
At a press briefing in the Department of Health last night, the chair of Nphet’s epidemiological modelling advisory group, Prof Philip Nolan, said: “I am more concerned than at any point in time since late April.”