'Virus is as deadly today as it was before', but call for clarity on ‘confusing’ new measures

'Virus is as deadly today as it was before', but call for clarity on ‘confusing’ new measures

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the “harsh reality” is that recent trends and the spread of the virus are “very serious”.

Ireland has tightened its restrictions in a bid to curb a surge in Covid-19 cases, with the country’s rate of growth the fourth highest in Europe.

However, there have been calls for further clarity and claims that the new measures, which will be in place until September 13, are contradictory and confusing.

They include lower limits on indoor and outdoor events, with exceptions for weddings and mass, the moving of sport behind closed doors and fresh advice for people over 70.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the “harsh reality” is that recent trends and the spread of the virus are “very serious”.

“We are not close to the level and pace of the spread of the virus earlier this year, but we are at a point where we need to recommit ourselves to key behaviours and to accept additional controls,” he said.

“The evidence is that a large number of people are acting as if the virus is no threat to them, or that it’s okay to take a few more risks, and many people seem to believe that if those they are socialising with have no symptoms, there is no problem.

“If the current increase continues, it will be impossible to stop the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable and most compromised and the virus is as deadly today as it was before.”

Businesses, including restaurants and bars that serve food, can remain open but people are asked to work remotely where possible.

Thomas Gould: ‘The Government doesn’t appear to have any clear direction.’	Picture: Mike English
Thomas Gould: ‘The Government doesn’t appear to have any clear direction.’ Picture: Mike English

But Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould has called on the Government to give people real clarity, describing the latest measures as “contradictory and confusing”.

“This is turning into a shambles,” he said. “The Government doesn’t appear to have any clear direction and there is no real information being given to support these new restrictions.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and we should be able to place confidence in the Government but confidence can only come with clarity. I am already being contacted by people extremely confused by these measures.

“Why can we go to weddings but not watch our children play sports? Why is it not okay to use public transport but school transport will be? Why are children allowed to travel on full buses and sit all day in full classrooms but can’t watch their siblings play matches outside and may miss their own training? We need answers to these questions and more.”

CEO of Cork Chamber, Conor Healy, said the measures were not unexpected and not unreasonable and were short-term pain for long-term gain. “These are efforts to ensure the localised lockdowns are not needed to go further,” said Mr Healy. “The measures are aimed at reducing the increases in cases.”

Mr Healy also said the measures were mostly directed at people gathering in a social context, and remote working was largely being implemented by office-based companies anyway. He said he was also glad that weddings and other activities can continue with 50 attendees.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the country went from a weekly low of 61 cases earlier this year to 533 last week, with 190 new cases confirmed yesterday.

“We’re now seeing multiple clusters throughout the country, in people’s homes, in multiple workplaces, and in a number of other social settings.

“Our 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 population, a key measure looked at by NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team), is now 26, that’s come up from four. Our five-day average of new cases is 116 new cases per day and rising.”

He said the new measures are to protect the health services and jobs, and to get schools reopened. “Looking at the facts and listening to the medical experts, we are at a tipping point.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn warned about the dangers of being in close contact with friends and family.

“It’s very natural that we feel safest when we are with those who we are closest to, whether that’s at home, at work, or at play. However, with this disease, that unfortunately is not always the case — 62% of cases in the last 14 days have been linked to close contact with a confirmed case.

“This means that we must be extra vigilant when socialising with our friends and family and we must not forget the safe behaviours that were so successful in flattening the curve through May and June.

“This virus is not tired even if we are. The measures that have been recommended today place a lot of responsibility on each of us as individuals to make choices about how we behave and how we interact with one another.

“But this is a collective problem and it requires collective action.”

Latest virus guidance

Under the new public health guidance, all businesses should continue to allow remote working where possible.

  • All outdoor events have been limited to 15 people, and indoor gatherings to six people, down from 50.
  • Weddings and Masses have been excluded from the updated restrictions.
  • Restaurants and cafes, including pubs which are currently acting as restaurants, can remain open — but with a mandatory closing time of 11.30pm.
  • Sports events and matches are to revert to being held behind closed doors, with no spectators allowed.
  • There should also be strict avoidance of social gatherings before and after games or fixtures.
  • Indoor training should be limited to 6 people and outdoor training should be limited to 15 people.
  • Public transport should be avoided where possible, and — if you are travelling in a car or other vehicle with someone from outside your household — it is recommended that you wear a face covering.
  • Those aged over 70 have been advised to limit their interactions to a small network for short periods.
  • Gardaí may also be given new powers to tackle breaches of social distancing rules in restaurants, bars, and private homes.

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