The Government will decide this morning if it will escalate the alert level of Dublin above the rest of the State under its new medium-term Living with Covid-19 five-level plan, as serious concerns continue about the rates of infection in the capital.
At issue is whether to keep it at the second-most benign level of the five-level plan, Level 2, despite the number of cases increasing twentyfold in the course of a month in the capital, or to raise it to Level 3.
However, if it is kept at Level 2, Dublin’s population of 1.4 million people will be subject to additional restrictions including a delay in the reopening of wet pubs from the scheduled September 21st date, as well as a new measure which will say members of only one household will be allowed to visit another home. It is also understood stopping all visits to residential care and nursing homes is being considered.
However, the other scenario that was being discussed by senior Ministers late last night was to designate Dublin at Level 3 but to modify some of the more severe restrictions associated with the elevated level.
In five hours of successive meetings yesterday involving the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 and the three party leaders – Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan – the primary focus was on the deteriorating situation in Dublin.
“They were long meetings,” said a senior Government source. “Dublin is a serious worry.”
The source said, however, it would have been “premature” to assign the more serious Level 3 status to Dublin as the full analysis on the situation in the capital has not yet been done.
“All the indications are very worrying,” added the source.
The Cabinet is due to give its final approval to the plan this morning including additional measures for Dublin.
Yesterday, Mr Varadkar gave an indication of the impact the heightened concerns over the situation in Dublin would have on the plan. He referred to a twentyfold increase in cases in the space of a few weeks, declaring the capital would require additional restrictions and a “different response” than in the rest of the country.
“While that has not yet resulted in a dramatic increase in people in hospital or ICUs or deaths, the truth is that it is probably going to head that way if we don’t get on top of it,” he said.
Another 208 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) last night, including 108 in Dublin. There were no new deaths.
The number of hospitalised patients has grown from 36 to 60 since the start of the month, while the number in intensive care has increased from six to 11.
The incidence of Covid-19 in two areas of Dublin has risen above the 100 mark per 100,000 population for the first time since the spring, new figures show.
The 14-day incidence of the virus now stands at 107.5 per 100,000 people in Dublin South East and 116 in Dublin North West, according to the latest epidemiological report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Separately, the period for which people with Covid-19 are required to isolate is being cut from 14 days to 10.
Under new guidelines, patients who test positive are being advised to self-isolate for “a minimum of 10 days” from the onset of symptoms.
Meanwhile, Licensed Vintners’ Association chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said it would be “unbelievable” for the reopening of non-food Dublin pubs to be further delayed past September 21st.