Taoiseach says moving other counties to Level three will be 'carefully considered'

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Digital Desk staff

Updated 16:40. Additional reporting by Press Association.

The Taoiseach says moving other counties to Level 3 restrictions will be 'carefully considered'.

It comes as concerns were raised about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in a number of counties by the government.

Louth, Waterford, Limerick, Kildare, Leitrim, Donegal, Offaly and Wicklow were all highlighted by government officials earlier as a cause for concern.

After the Chief Medical Officer mentioned Donegal, Louth and Waterford yesterday, Taoiseach Micheal Martin says they are being monitored:

"NPHET will advise us on a continuing basis in relation to the rest of the country, certainly Louth, Donegal and Waterford are giving rise for concern.

"The CMO, Ronan Glynn has said this to us and obviously that will be closely monitored. It is a significant decision to move up to Level three for any county so that will be carefully considered."

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It comes as Higher Education Minister, Simon Harris said Ireland is at a crossroads in the coronavirus pandemic.

In an update on the Government’s Living with Covid-19 plan today, an official from the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan warned of “worrying trends” nationally following increased restrictions in Dublin.

Ms Canavan said Dublin “made a lot of headlines” but it was important to point out that the situation nationally was also a cause for concern.

The Government official listed Louth, Waterford, Limerick, Kildare, Leitrim, Donegal and Offaly as regions currently showing “concerning trends”.

She noted that Donegal had gone from recording 18 cases the fortnight before last, to 102 cases over the more recent fortnight, while Wicklow had gone from 19 cases to 99 in recent weeks.

We are at Level Two nationally and we want to stay there or improve to Level One, she said. “We don’t want to go the other way.”

She said of particular concern was the fact that community transmission was on the increase, meaning the source of infection was not clear and the potential for any gathering to become a source of infection was increased.

Level Three

The six counties mentioned by Ms Canavan are now on the brink of being increased to Level Three restrictions as cases continue to rise across the country, according to the Irish Examiner.

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said "it is a possibility" that other parts of the country may follow Dublin in being moved up to a higher level of restrictions, which have seen many bars and restaurants close in the capital.

Yesterday saw the highest number of new cases confirmed in a single day since May 14th, with 396 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed on Sunday bringing the total weekend figure to 670.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has expressed concern at the increasing levels of Covid-19 in Donegal, Louth, and Waterford in particular, saying it is vital people in all counties do all they can to break the chains of transmission over the next seven days.

All of our behaviours throughout July and August and into September [are] beginning to accumulate in an exponential way.

Another member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has said the current "exponential increase" in cases started at the end of June, at the same time that pubs and restaurants reopened.

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET's modelling advisory group, said the growth of the virus started a number of months ago:

“What you’re seeing now is the roots of that increase which are based in all of our behaviours throughout July and August and into September beginning to accumulate in an exponential way.”

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Level Three restrictions now in place for the capital mean only businesses offering takeaway or with outdoor seating can open for the next three weeks, as Dublin city and county have been placed under tighter restrictions following a surge of cases in the capital.

Mr Harris said the Government “acted very rapidly” on the National Public Health Emergency Team’s advice earlier this week.

“There is a very, very narrow window here now, where we the Irish people have a choice,” he told RTÉ.

“We’re at a crossroads. This could go one of two ways. We have to act now to make sure we do not go back to where we were in March or April.”

Referring to previous local lockdowns in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly, Mr Harris said “swift action” had been taken, adding that simply shutting meat factories in those counties would not have been enough.

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Mr Harris also said that while Ireland is testing more people for Covid-19 than most other European countries, more investment is needed.

He said that there are currently about 14,000 tests a day being carried out, the vast majority of which are returned negative.

mzOoC

Labour has called for further support for the people of Dublin as they face stricter restrictions for the next three weeks.

Business spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said there are reports that up to 50,000 people could lose their jobs in Dublin.

“This is serious, it is spreading in the community, and we need to support people that need help,” he said.

“The Labour Party is calling for significant support for people and businesses. So far, we’ve had the usual business package but nothing for ordinary people.”

He proposed the restoration of the pandemic unemployment payment, a ban on evictions and rent increases, and the extension of the bank repayment break.

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