Taoiseach 'ruling nothing out' with increase to Level 4 or 5 restrictions

ireland
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Digital Desk staff

Updated 3pm

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he is "ruling nothing out" regarding a move to tightened Level 4 or 5 restrictions around the country in the coming week as Covid-19 cases soar.

Mr Martin has said he is "very worried" by the latest numbers which saw over 1,000 new cases confirmed yesterday, but insists the current Level 3 measures can work.

Earlier this afternoon, he issued an appeal to the nation to make the current measures work to stem the spread of Covid-19 as he warned that "the coming weeks will be challenging."

“We’re ruling nothing out because the plan provides for moving up levels. We moved from Level 2 to Level 3 last Tuesday night, we want to see Level 3 have an impact," he said.

"We want to, you know, give people an opportunity because going to Level 4 will close a lot of companies and businesses and make a lot of people unemployed.”

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In a statement this afternoon, Mr Martin said Level 3 could work to suppress the virus and its growth if "we all change our behaviours and work together".

The Taoiseach said keeping schools open remained the main priority of the Government: "Keeping our schools open remains a key priority of government – to ensure that the life chances of our young people will not be impaired."

"Covid-19 is challenging countries across Europe and throughout the world. The coming weeks will be challenging but working with Nphet, we will respond firmly and appropriately. We have the capacity and resources to come through this and we will."

Calls for action

Mr Martin's comments come as there have been renewed calls for further lockdown measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, after Ireland recorded the highest number of cases since the height of the pandemic in April.

1,012 new cases were recorded in the 24 hours up to midnight on Friday - the highest daily number of cases yet recorded that did not include any backlog.

Three further deaths were reported, meaning the the total number Covid-19 related deaths has now reached 1,824 in the State.

No amount of testing and tracing and Level 3 restrictions will fix this problem in Ireland in the sort of short, medium or long-term.

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Infectious diseases specialist, Professor Sam McConkey, has said the government's current strategy will not stem the current surge of infections and called for further measures.

“No amount of testing and tracing and Level 3 restrictions will fix this problem in Ireland in the sort of short, medium or long-term," he said.

"It’s a Government decision [if] counties move up to Level 4 or all counties move up to Level 4, or indeed some counties move up to Level 5, that’s a national leaders’ decision, but my view is we need to do one of those options at this point."

Waiting until they’re overwhelmed is almost like saying, oh we got hit bad in March and April, 1,800 people died, let’s just wait for that to happen again and then we’ll react.

Prof McConkey has said the country cannot wait until its hospitals are overwhelmed to take action.

“Waiting until they’re overwhelmed is almost like saying, oh we got hit bad in March and April, 1,800 people died, let’s just wait for that to happen again and then we’ll react,” he said.

“That’s about half the number of people who died in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s about half the people who died in the 9/11 event, it’s about nine jumbo jets, 737s, so waiting for that to happen a second time rather than acting to prevent it, in my view, is bad public policy.”

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Hospital admissions

It comes as the number of patients being treated in hospital for Covid-19 has passed 200 for the first time since the end of May in a four month high.

201 people are currently hospitalised with the disease, after 18 new admissions in the past 24 hours. As of yesterday evening, there were 31 people being treated in intensive care units.

Consultant in intensive care medicine at University Hospital Limerick, Catherine Motherway, has said the increase is concerning healthcare workers: “Those numbers make the public anxious and they make us anxious.

"So it would be really good if we could get this right. None of us want people to lose their jobs. None of us want a lockdown per se. What we want is a reduction in the number of cases, however that is achieved, ideally by the public health measures and a full embracement of them.”

I am very worried about the numbers we are seeing and how quickly they are deteriorating.

Yesterday evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said all of the important indicators of the disease were deteriorating.

“I am very worried about the numbers we are seeing and how quickly they are deteriorating,” he said.

“The 14-day incidence rate has increased from 108 per 100,000 last Sunday, to 150 per 100,000 today, which represents a 39 per cent increase,” he said, adding that the test positivity rate had also “more than doubled in less than a fortnight,” now standing at 6.2 per cent.

Northern Ireland has also seen a major surge of cases in recent weeks, recording a further 902 cases of the disease yesterday and over a thousand the day before, as the region experiences more cases than the Republic despite its smaller population.

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