The number of Covid-19 cases in Dublin will double every 14 days unless the public makes urgent changes to behaviour, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has warned.
Public health officials are now warning people living in the capital to limit family gatherings as new figures reported a further 84 cases in the State, including 51 of them in Dublin.
The number of infections among older people has almost doubled. In the past fortnight, 89 people aged 75 years and over have contracted the disease, twice the level in the previous fortnight, a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefing has heard.
“It remains within the hands of individuals, families and communities to stop this getting worse. From that perspective, household gatherings, Communion parties, christenings and other family events where multiple people are coming together – if at all possible they do need to be stopped for the next few weeks,” said Dr Glynn.
Three further deaths were also reported, bringing to four the number of fatalities in the past five days. The deaths occurred in different parts of the country and are not seen as part of a trend.
Separately last night, it emerged that the Health Service Executive suspended testing for Covid-19 at food and meat processing plants due to capacity issues. The plants have been among the most vulnerable settings in terms of the spread of coronavirus since it reached Irish shores. There are four clusters at plants across the country, while more than 1,500 cases of the virus have been confirmed in such facilities.
HSE director of public health mid-west Dr Mai Mannix said the suspension was taken “because of the increased capacity needed at the moment to deal with people with symptoms . . . The decision to recommence Covid testing at food processing plants will also be taken at national level.”
Urging people in Dublin to limit contact, chairman of NPHET’s epidemiological modelling advisory group Prof Philip Nolansaid it is “essential” that further spread of the virus is prevented given the size of the capital’s population.
The disease is spreading because people are being unguarded with friends at home, even though they exercise caution with strangers, he suggested.
However, officials gave no indication they are contemplating immediate further restrictions in Dublin but NPHET will review the epidemiological situation at its meeting on Thursday.
Cases have been identified in 54 schools since they returned 10 days ago, the briefing heard, but most involved transmission in the community, officials said. In only one school has an additional case been identified so far.