Packed pubs should be a thing of the past, intensive care expert says

Uncontrolled groups in indoor settings could cause an uptick in infections. Photo: Mehdi Fedouach/AFP via Getty

There cannot be a return to the packed pubs of the past, intensive care consultant Catherine Motherway has warned.

Although there was a need to return to some sort of normal, uncontrolled groups in indoor settings was a worry, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Pubs which do not serve food will be allowed reopen on September 21st. Public health experts have said restrictions will be necessary to control high rates of infection in Dublin.

Dr Motherway, who is past president of the Intensive Care Society, said she would prefer to see people gathering in a controlled manner in small groups.

The level of intensive care beds in the country remained an issue of concern, she added and any expansion in such numbers would be welcome in the national plan due to be announced on Tuesday.

The rise in the numbers of people contracting Covid-19 in recent weeks had been predominantly among younger people who did not need the same levels of hospitalisation, which was good, she said, but there remained the fear that the virus could spread in the community to more vulnerable people.

Dr Motherway said that while the vulnerable have gotten better at protecting themselves, there remained a risk.

The survival rate in Ireland’s intensive care units for Covid-19 patients was good, she said, at 79 per cent, which compared well internationally.

Dr Motherway said she was confident that the HSE was committed to improving intensive care bed capacity, but the lack of ICU beds was one of the reasons why there had been such a severe and prolonged lockdown.

The consultant, who is based at University Hospital Limerick where she has not seen a Covid-19 case in the intensive care unit for some time, called on people to gather in a controlled manner, it was uncontrolled indoor gatherings that were the problem, she said.

While we needed to get back to some sort of normal life, it was not going to be the same as before, there could not be a return to packed pubs, she said.