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A checkpoint in Dublin over the weekend. Leah Farrell/

Socialising, funerals and people 'taking their eye off the ball': Concerns over uptick in Covid cases

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan has said it is “a worrying development”.

A SLIGHT UPTICK in Covid-19 cases over the past number of days has caused a degree of concern among health officials, with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan warning that people ignoring guidelines are “putting progress at risk”. 

Ireland is now over halfway through the six-week Level 5 lockdown that was put in place on 22 October. In that intervening period, the 14-day incidence rate has dropped by 50% overall and by a greater degree in some counties. 

On Thursday, chair of NPHET’s modelling group Dr Philip Nolan said there was “significant continued improvement” in the number of Covid-19 cases. 

The following day however NPHET reported 482 new cases of the virus, a daily increase in cases that Holohan said was “an important reminder of the unpredictable nature of this highly infectious disease”.  

“We must not allow our success to date let us drop our guard against the spread of this disease,” he said.

But while NPHET may have hoped this reminder was a blip and nothing more,  a further 456 cases and six deaths were reported on Saturday. This daily case total compared to the previous two Saturdays where 335 and 416 cases were confirmed. 

The increase prompted Holohan into more serious commentary, noting that the five-day rolling average was now increasing once more and NPHET was now “concerned”.

“Analysis of today’s data shows the five-day moving average of case numbers has increased from 354 to 392. We have seen higher numbers in recent days than we expected based on the encouraging trends of the last three weeks. We are concerned that this progress is at risk. We have to remember that the virus is still very active in the community and we cannot let our guard slip,” he said. 

Yesterday NPHET then reported 378 new cases of Covid-19, a figure lower than the previous two days but still on the upper end of the increased five-day average. 

The figures prompted Holohan into saying that the increase in cases had “persisted for days”. This time however the CMO referenced two specific concerns, people gathering socially and for funerals.  

Holohan had also mentioned funerals as being an issue last Thursday, noting that NPHET has seen reports of “wakes and other gatherings as well as the church part of funerals”. 

His comments about socialising also came as video clips of people gathering on the streets in Dublin and Cork on Saturday evening were shared online and generated news coverage. 

“The average daily five-day case count is rising and is now over 400 per day. This is a worrying development which has persisted for the last few days. We are seeing a number of things which concern us,” he said yesterday.

There are examples of small numbers of people congregating for social purposes and simply ignoring the important public health messages. They are putting our collective progress at risk. 

“We are also seeing a number of outbreaks across the country. These include outbreaks in association with funerals. We understand that this is a difficult time for families but it is really important that we do everything we can to avoid the circumstances which promote transmission of the virus.”

The CMO also reiterated that people should work from home.

“There have also been outbreaks associated with workplace settings. As we head into a new working week, we need to stay at home other than for essential reasons and for personal exercise within 5km. Anyone who can work from home, should work from home.”


With Holohan making specific reference to socialising and funerals as a potential source of outbreaks, NPHETs Dr Mary Favier today RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today that there has been a complacency about people’s adherence to guidelines.

“I think cases have been rising in the last number of days because I think there’s a certain both complacency and fatigue,” she said. 

I think we’ve all thought we’re patting ourselves on the back should have done quite well. But I think there’s been a fraying around the edges. And we’ve seen cases where it’s social congregations out on the streets, whether it’s in workplaces, whether it’s around funerals. I think people are taking their own eye off the ball.

Favier also spoke about the upcoming Christmas period, saying that she has a particular concern about “how alcohol is used over the next few weeks” and the potential for people to “let down their guard”.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Gabriel Scally also said that “our experience with alcohol on Covid-19 is not a happy experience” and that we needed to be “extremely cautious” before considering whether pubs could reopen. 

Speaking about the recent uptick in cases, Scally said Ireland is doing well compared to most of Europe but that the second wave has proven difficult to fight.

“I think the second wave has been much worse than most people have predicted in many countries, and is proving slightly more stubborn in terms of getting the numbers down,” he said.

“But I think that’s because many countries have left too late to act. I don’t think Ireland did. I think it’s come down very well in Ireland and everyone is to be congratulated for it. And I think NPHET have called it absolutely right along the way.”

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