Varadkar warns of Dublin restrictions as new Covid-19 plan finalised

New Covid-19 restrictions for Dublin could come this week, though no decision has yet been reached.Photo: Paul Faith/AFP via Getty

Updated: 1.30pm

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the “worrying” increase in coronavirus infections in Dublin would require more restrictions and a “different response” than in the rest of the country.

Expressing concern about a 20-fold rise in Covid-19 cases in Dublin in less than a month, Mr Varadkar said the Government would make a decision on restrictions on Tuesday.

“While that has not yet resulted in a dramatic increase in people in hospital or ICUs or deaths, the truth is that it is probably going to head that way if we don’t get on top of it,” he said.

The incidence of Covid-19 in two areas of Dublin is now above the 100 mark per 100,000 people for the first time since the spring, new figures show.

The 14-day incidence of the virus now stands at 101.9 per 100,000 people in Dublin South-East and 100.6 in Dublin North-West, according to the latest epidemiological report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

A total of 1,068 cases were notified in Dublin over the two-week period up to last Friday. The incidence rate for the county stands at 89.1, the highest in the State.

Ministers will meet on Monday to finalise the Government’s plan on managing the Covid-19 pandemic amid warnings from public health experts that restrictions will be necessary to control high rates of infection in Dublin.

Senior sources told The Irish Times on Sunday night there would be further amendments to the plan before it is sent to the Cabinet for approval and publication on Tuesday.

The plan will set a five-stage framework, with level one the most relaxed environment and level five the most restricted, akin to the national lockdown introduced earlier this year. It will then set out what each level will mean for a variety of sectors.

It is expected the Government will say that level two is appropriate for the country at present, though there is some debate among Ministers as to whether Dublin should be elevated to level three.

On Sunday night it was announced there were 255 new cases nationally, with 156 of these in Dublin.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said his main aim was to keep schools and colleges open and this would take precedence over the reopening of pubs or staging sporting events.

Speaking on Sunday, he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics: “If you look at the plan, the key ingredient across all levels will be the reduction of social contacts, even in the home, because that is where prevalence of the disease is most dangerous.”

Dr Nuala O'Connor, the Covid-19 lead at the Irish College of General Practioners, said the new measures could be with us for a long time.

“Until we get an effective vaccine or an effective treatment, the world is going to be living with this virus for some time to come yet – we have to get back on with living our lives, educating our children [and] get the economy going,” she said.

Meanwhile, gardaí in Dublin are to increase their high visibility patrols in the capital.

The aim is to help reduce the continuing high infection rates in the city. Gardaí will monitor social distancing and large gatherings.

Garda Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said: “It is vital that people living in, working in and visiting Dublin limit their social interactions, maintain social distancing, wear face masks in shops and on public transport and not gather in groups larger than outlined in the public health advice."