Ireland in ‘more difficult’ phase of Covid-19 with worrying rise in outbreaks

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The increasing number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in private households is more concerning than clusters in meat plants, according to an infectious diseases expert.

Prof Sam McConkey, from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, said the number of outbreaks in private households had been increasing "dramatically" recently, whereas outbreaks in meat factories are getting fewer.

He said: "It is much more challenging to deal with [outbreaks in households] because they are private spaces that are not regulated very much.

"Whereas in organised workplaces, the employers and the people running it have a very strong interest in having their business up and working well and their employees healthy."

Meanwhile, the head of the HSE has said that Ireland has reached a “more difficult phase” of Covid-19 as the country marks six months since the first case was detected.

There have been a total of 1,777 people who died with Covid-19 in the State, many of them elderly people living in nursing homes.

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Figures provided by the Department of Health show that Ireland recorded its highest death toll on April 20th when 77 people died from the virus.

After health officials confirmed the first case on February 29th, there have since been 28,578 people diagnosed with Covid-19.

Ireland hit its highest number of cases in one day when 936 were recorded on April 23rd.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it has been a “a long six months” since the first Covid-19 case confirmed in the State.

“Much learning, hurt, sorrow, grieving and frustration.

“But there’s also been inspirational responses from the public and healthcare workers,” he tweeted.

“A more difficult phase now but the same virus.”

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As society eased out of lockdown restrictions, cases have been steadily rising since mid-July prompting acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn to issue warnings about the spike, particularly among young people.

While alarm bells were sounded over the jump in cases, there has been a fall-off in the number of people admitted to hospital and the number of deaths.

There are currently five people in intensive care units and 30 people in hospital with the disease.

A total of 127 new cases of Covid-19 and no further deaths were reported by the Department of Health of Friday.

It comes as the Government said gardaí will receive tough new powers to shut pubs which break coronavirus rules.

Fines of up to €2,500 or a maximum of six months in prison will be the sanction if bars infringing social distancing regulations refuse to close for a day.

Dublin-based artist Asbestos puts the finishing touches to the latest in his series of mask portraits. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Closure orders could be issued by a district court resulting in a pub being shut for up to 30 days.

Plan to reopen drink-only hostelries have been put on hold again as the government attempts to contain the cases.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced a €16 million support package for pubs, bars and nightclubs which are enduring a prolonged wait to raise shutters.

The new initiatives included waiving court fees and associated excise and stamp duties relating to the renewal of pub and other liquor licences and waiver of excise duty on on-trade liquor licences on renewal this year.

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