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Spike in Covid-19 cases puts reopening of pubs at risk amid worries over spread of virus

Fears community transmission with unknown source on the rise

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Pubs may have to agree to shorter opening times and limits on customer numbers as a price for reopening.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said at least 19 cases over the two days have been identified as community transmission with an unknown source, while 20 cases remain under investigation.

"We may be beginning to see more cases which we cannot link to outbreaks or close contacts. The National Public Health Emergency Team will continue to monitor this situation closely over the coming days," he said.

The Irish Dog Foods factory in Naas, which was the centre of a large outbreak, remained closed yesterday for a deep clean.

A number of its workers who live in direct provision centres, including facilities in Newbridge and Monasterevin, who tested positive for the virus are in self-isolation in the Citywest hotel in Dublin.

Although yesterday's daily toll of new cases was lower it still marks a significant jump from the average of 20 new infections which was seen in the previous week.

Among the 123 cases reported over the last two days, 44 are in Kildare, 33 in Dublin, 11 in Clare, 10 in Laois, eight in Limerick and the remaining 17 were diagnosed across 10 other counties.

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Mass testing: Dr Ronan Glynn. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Dublin

Mass testing: Dr Ronan Glynn. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Dublin

Mass testing: Dr Ronan Glynn. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Dublin

Remaining pubs which were hoping for the green light to reopen in early August have been dealt a setback by the resurgence.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Tuesday to consider phase four of the reopening of the country on August 10, including the remaining pubs, hotel bars and casinos and whether to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people.

Dr Glynn said yesterday mass testing has now taken place in relation to a number of known outbreaks.

Some 26 of yesterday's 38 cases were linked with outbreaks or close contacts of confirmed cases which means they can be traced back.

There is also growing anxiety about a survey of GPs showing vast majority of patients who had contacted them with Covid-like symptoms in the past week had not been self-isolating since feeling unwell.

"The importance of isolating as soon as you have any flu-like symptoms cannot be overstated. Without this individual action we simply will not break the chains of transmission and we will put many people at risk of infection. It is important that people know that there is no charge for GP or testing services relating to Covid-19. Please do not hesitate to contact your GP if you have any concerns."

Speaking in advance of the August bank holiday weekend, he said: "The six key things people need to do are limit the size of your network and time you spend with them, keep your distance, meet up outside if possible, wash your hands, wear a face covering and download the Covid Tracker App."

Leading infectious disease consultant Dr Sam McConkey said he was less worried about cases linked to outbreaks that can be accounted for as cases of community transmission where people don't know where they were infected.

"Community cases just pop up here. We don't know where they are and that is worrying. The virus might spread and grow in those hidden places.

"It's like your enemies - you don't know where they are, that is scary," he said.

Mater Hospital infectious disease consultant Dr Jack Lambert criticised the failure to provide proper training on Covid-19 prevention to industry other than in "glossy guidelines" in many cases.

He stressed this was the key to prevention of outbreaks and needed to be on site.

It is essential this is carried out in schools before they reopen, he stressed.

"There needs to be on-site demonstrations and support at every level to combat this dangerous virus. We don't want to wait for an outbreak in schools. Why don't we train the schools today? They are asking for help but they don't have clear guidance," he said.

The situation has so far been too "reactionary" due to the lack of a proactive plan, he added.

"There are a whole bunch of people who answered the 'Call for Ireland' who could be trained up to provide this kind of guidance," he added. "The other solution is blame everyone when something goes wrong. Why not prevent the outbreak in the first place?"

People are reminded that being outdoors is safer than being indoors. Where possible, meet with others outdoors and if that is not possible, keep windows and doors open when meeting others inside.

Also, people are reminded to keep two metres apart where possible.

Irish Independent


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