Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that Dublin is at a “very dangerous place” and without action, Dublin could return to the worst days of the crisis.
In a live address to the nation, Mr Martin said he knew the havoc the virus was causing to the economy, to sports, to arts and culture.
“I know this my first and most important obligation is to protect you. This virus kills. It kills old people but it kills young people too,” he said.
He said that the new restrictions for Dublin would leave “many people angry” but it was necessary to protect life. Mr Martin was speaking after the Government decided that from midnight tonight, Dublin city and county would move to Level Three alert for the next three weeks.
Mr Martin outlined some of the new restrictions that would impact on the capital.
Visitors from one other household will be allowed into homes. Training will be allowed to take place but no matches. Weddings and funerals will be confined to 25 people. People have been asked not to travel outside or into Dublin city and county.
“Many will be upset by what we have to do but please be assured these restrictions are recommended by our leading medical experts (in this field).”
He said questions had been asked about the pause on indoor dining for the next three weeks.
“The fact is that while we are seeing a lot of infection in people’s homes, the initial infection is taking place in the community,” he said.
He argued that the Government needed to “act now and in common purpose.”
“We owe it to the memory of all those taken by this virus.”
He added: “We are a resilient people. As a nation we have come through every manner of trial and hardship and this too will pass.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that many people do not want to believe it but the Covid-19 was getting serious again.
Mr Varadkar was the first speaker in a press conference with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and the Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn.
He said the positivity rate had increased to well over 2 per cent and the rate had tripled.
“It’s not all bad. There is hope. If we compare ourselves to many of our neighbours we are doing relatively well,” saying that Dublin was doing better than Belfast, or Amsterdam or Paris.
Turning to the impact on business and employers, he said some people would be laid off “sadly” for a second time this year and some businesses would close.
He said people would be entitled to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) if they were not working. He said that an additional €30 million would be released for Dublin in the form of restart grants, as well as €5 million for sport.
Mr Varadkar repeated all the individual protocols that individuals should observe, including handwashing and wearing of face masks.
Minister for Transport and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the incidence of the disease in Dublin was twice that of other parts in the country and was rising by between 5 per cent and 7 per cent each day.
“For each 1,000 extra people who get the virus, we get 50 people who are hospitalised and five to ten people admitted to ICU and between 5 to 10 deaths,” he said. That, he said, why the “hard decisions” had to be made.
“We need to take three weeks to stop this disease in its tracks and get back to Level Two and Level One,” he said.
Growing age profile
On Thursday night, health officials reported that one more person had died of Covid-19 and a further 240 cases had been reported. Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said half of the cases (119) were in Dublin, while there was also a growing age profile among those catching the virus.
The latest figures mean the death toll in the State has risen to 1,789. Confirmed cases have now breached the 32,000 mark, climbing to 32,023.
“Right now the hospitals are coping, but we will see our hospital system coming under pressure and it doesn’t take a large number of cases to start freezing wards and beds.”
Mr Reid explained that wards have to be ‘frozen’ and put out of use when a case of Covid is identified. This was to allow for deep cleaning, but it meant they could be out of use for days.
When asked about the hospitality sector being impacted when more cases are coming from the community, he explained that the cases were brought into the community from where people had gathered or congregated. “It is about where people meet,” he said.
Meanwhile, an emergency medicine consultant has warned that the HSE needs to urgently address the issue of the shortage of intensive care beds rather than trying to reassure people that there isn’t a problem.
Dr Fergal Hickey said that even before Covid the health care system was “critically short” of intensive care beds “at the best of times.” For any one to claim there were sufficient intensive care beds was incorrect, he said.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Hickey said that the evidence contradicted any claims about sufficient critical care bed capacity. While some areas in hospitals could be turned into extra critical care capacity, the reality was that there was a shortage, he said.
“As the numbers keep rising people will require hospitalisation and critical care. We are seeing an increase in older people, who are more vulnerable, getting infected and they will require critical care as will some young people,” he said.