By James Ward, PA
It is “too early” to consider local lockdowns for Limerick following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the area, junior education minister Niall Collins has said.
Mr Collins, a TD for Limerick, said he did not envisage such a response but that it is one of the options “if necessary”.
A statement by the Department of Public Health Mid-West on Friday expressed “serious concerns over a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in Limerick, connected to social gatherings in the past two weeks”.
Dr Mai Mannix, director of Public Health Mid-West, said: “We have not seen this level of infection in the community since early March, which is a very worrying trend.
“If daily cases continue at this rate, coupled with the health service’s coping with the sinister cyberattack, we will find ourselves in a very troubling position.”
We are expressing serious concerns over a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Limerick, connected to social gatherings in the past two weeks.
We have not seen this level of infection in the community since early March, which is a very worrying trend. pic.twitter.com/nVfyyIa30w
— Public Health Mid-West (@PublicHealthMW) May 21, 2021
Speaking on Saturday, Mr Collins said: “We just have to be cautious.
“I will, over the course of today, discuss it further with the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, and just to make him aware of the situation on the ground here and impress upon him the response that we will need from the HSE in relation to possible pop-up testing centres.”
He told RTÉ’s Saturday With Katie Hannon that it was “too early” to consider local lockdowns, but said the Government will follow public health advice.
“We will always take the public health advice.
“The Government has been consistent in its approach in terms of how we tackled the whole pandemic and the challenges that the pandemic throws up to us,” he said.
“I think it’s too early at this point in time to be considering a local lockdown as a response to this.
These are tools that are in the toolbox, if necessary
“The message has to go out there, and loud and clear to people, that the numbers speak for themselves and the data speaks for itself.
“But equally, I think we have to bear in mind that the vaccination programme is rolling out quite well here in Limerick and in the Midwest.”
He added: “People aged 50 are now being vaccinated yesterday and today, so we’ll be vaccinating people in their 40s commencing possibly tomorrow or early next week.
“So it’s against that backdrop I don’t envisage that a local lockdown will transpire.
“These are tools that are in the toolbox, if necessary, but hopefully won’t get to that point.”
The Department of Public Health Mid-West said socialising around the Muslim festival of Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan, has contributed to the spike.
“Activities contributing to this increase in cases include house parties, indoor gatherings, social activities surrounding last week’s Eid celebrations, and significant onward transmission from weekend social events into workplaces,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, registration for the coronavirus vaccine has now opened to 46-year-olds, the HSE said.