Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned cities could have Covid-19 restrictions imposed upon them as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland’s hospitals rose above 100 and Co Donegal prepared to enter Level 3 of the country’s five-level alert scale.
Speaking in Cork on Friday, Mr Martin said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) would advise the Government “ in terms of any restrictions that may have to come in for other areas.”
“They are concerned about urban centres: Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford – particularly as universities and Institutes of Technology reopen in the coming weeks,” Mr Martin added.
“That is a concern – where you have high density populations the virus can thrive in such situations.”
Mr Martin emphasised that every effort must be made to prevent any other area, urban or rural, from entering Level 3.
“First of all we have an opportunity to avoid those areas going to Level 3 at all if we adhere to the public health guidance – reduce congregations, reduce the number of social contacts and wear masks in shops and on public transport.”
“NPHET may advise in terms of particularly localised restrictions though, to date, it has been on a county by county basis.
Mr Martin said the numbers are “particularly growing in the cities and urbanised parts” of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. He said the rise in case of the virus had been “within the community and within wherever large gatherings have happened.”
“Suffice to say right now they (NPHET) are very concerned. I was speaking to the Chief Medical Officer over the week and in places like Cork city cases have been going up in a straight line in the past two weeks.
“That is a worry – between 20 and 30 cases a day. That is worrying. Likewise in other city areas.”
The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospital has gone above 100 for the first time since early June. There were 102 confirmed virus patients in hospital on Thursday night, including 12 admissions in the previous 24 hours, according to the latest operational report from the Health Service Executive.
This represents a substantial increase on the 88 confirmed cases recorded the previous evening.
A further 114 suspected cases of the disease are also being treated in hospitals.
The Mater hospital, with 20 patients, Beaumont Hospital with 16 and St James’s Hospital with 12 have the highest number of confirmed cases currently being treated, according to the report.
The number of patients in ICU decreased from 17 to 16 last evening. The Mater, Portlaoise and Wexford hospital have no free critical care beds at present, though across the system there are 45 critical care beds available.
Meanwhile, the latest epidemiological data confirms that Donegal has overtaken Dublin as the county with the highest incidence of the virus in the Republic.
As of Thursday, Donegal had a 14-day incidence of 148.2 per 100,000 people, compared to 144.5 for Dublin, the report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows.
The incidence in Louth was 107.8 and in Waterford, 86.9.
The incidence in the worst-affected area of Dublin, the north-west, increased from 200.3 to 207.1
Compared to the previous day, the incidence in Donegal grew 21 per cent per cent, that in Dublin and Louth increased only slightly while in Waterford it fell.
Between Wednesday and Thursday, incidence rates rose in 11 countries, fell in another 11 counties and were unchanged in four others. Within Dublin, rates rose slightly in all regions except Dublin South-East.
This appears to show the appeals by public health officials for people to limit contacts and follow guidance is working.
‘Time to sit up’
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the HSE is trying to get across the message to people that “it’s time to sit up”.
Nobody wants to go back to the situation there was in March, he told RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Claire Byrne show. Lockdown kills the economy and society, he said.
The real discussion should be about how to stop people having to go to intensive care, he said, when asked about the number of ICU beds.
People are tired and frustrated, they want certainty which the HSE cannot give them. “Everything that we do has to change,” he said..
Mr Reid defended the country’s testing and tracing system saying 1.1million tests have been carried out to date.
Contact tracing right now is a balance between speed and time and the HSE is looking at the idea of tracing going back further than 48 hours. To do so will mean increasing resources, but if it is deemed necessary then the resources will be provided.
Ireland is one of the few countries testing contacts, he said. It was about trying to find a compromise as new knowledge emerged all the time and had to be examined.
“We need to keep the economy and society open. We are still playing catch up in our response since lockdown.”
Every measure to keep society open must be taken, he said.