By Cate McCurry, PA
The easing of Covid restrictions will proceed in Limerick in line with the rest of the country, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has confirmed.
Dr Tony Holohan and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly met virtually with Limerick-based TDs and Senators this afternoon over the recent rise of cases in the county.
Speaking later to Clare FM, Dr Holohan ruled out a local lockdown at present. He said public health officials are monitoring case numbers closely and urged the public to adhere to guidelines.
“We haven’t at this stage formed a conclusion that the measures that are being eased around the country shouldn’t be eased also in Limerick, but if we see a continued increase in the level of infection that we’re seeing at the moment, we’ll have to think further about the kinds of actions that we need to take,” he said.
“But for now, [it's] really really important that people in Limerick hear the message that the risk is higher than it is in any other part of the country, and basic public health measures while they’re waiting to be vaccinated are really, really important in protecting them.”
Earlier on Friday, Minister of State Niall Collins said Limerick is “a bit removed from” a local lockdown “at the moment”.
As the Irish Examiner reports, he warned that the Covid-19 situation in Limerick remains “very serious” ahead of a crisis meeting this afternoon between the Chief Medical Officer, the Health Minister and local TDs.
Mr Collins said that local lockdowns, which had been mooted to stem the spread, “are very divisive, they're very disruptive, extremely unpopular, but they are effective”, but said he felt the county was a bit removed from such a move yet.
However, he said: “Really the numbers that we've been experiencing over the last two to three weeks has been extraordinarily high.
“Our incidence rates per 100,000 population is 411, and yesterday we accounted for 20 per cent of the national figure, we had in excess of 100 cases yesterday when it was just shy of 514 nationally, it's quite serious, and it's quite concerning here in Limerick.”
Mr Collins said it was a “combination of both” workplace settings and people meeting socially, noting a number of builders have been impacted, both in the county and in the city.
“GPs said there has been a general relaxation and dropping of the guard by people,” he said.
“That all coupled with the reopening of the economy and summertime – it’s important to reinforce the public health message. There’s no rocket science to this, it’s the basics that work here.
We are at a juncture where vaccinations are rolling out, but it serves a timely reminder that the virus has not gone away
“People are worn out and struggling. They want to see a return to normality. The vaccination programme is having a desired effect.
“We are at a juncture where vaccinations are rolling out, but it serves a timely reminder that the virus has not gone away.
“I would like to [see] two more testing centres, one in the west of the county and one in south-west in Kilmallock.
“Testing centres have been overrun. They have been referring people away to Nenagh and Ennis and they need more capacity.
Here are today's open walk-in #COVID19 test centeres:
Old Mallow Road, T23KR96
Shrewsbury Road, Dublin 4
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) June 4, 2021
“I think the further reopening on Monday will help because people will have choices to go into managed settings. The conversation we are having today in Limerick will help raise awareness of this message.”
The county has seen a high level of outbreaks from workplaces, social gatherings and indoor settings.
It emerged earlier this week that more than 800 cases of the virus were detected in Limerick in the last two weeks, prompting warnings from health officials.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the outbreaks have created a “volatile situation”.
Today we are reporting a significant increase in cases in Limerick with incidence increasing sharply to 411/100,000.
There have been more than 800 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Limerick in the past fortnight, the majority of which occurred as a result of indoor gatherings.
— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) June 3, 2021
On Thursday Dr Holohan said: “It is extremely important that everyone in the Limerick region continues to adhere to the public health advice.
“Please avoid crowds, wear a mask where appropriate, wash your hands, maintain your social distance, socialise outdoors and, most importantly, if you display any symptoms of Covid-19 or suspect you are a close contact of a confirmed case, then attend a test centre for a free test.
Earlier this week, Dr Mai Mannix, director of public health at HSE Mid-West, said the rise in cases was sparked by multiple community outbreaks connected to indoor events, including house parties, indoor gatherings, family and household visits, as well as multiple household events.
“We also had workplace outbreaks and similar outbreaks in school settings,” Dr Mannix added.
“The vast majority (of people) are in their 40s, 30s and downwards.”