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An empty O'Connell Street.
An empty O'Connell Street.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

'This is getting serious again': New restrictions now in effect as Dublin moves to Level 3

Business expressed their frustration at the measures for Dublin last night as the Covid-19 figures painted a stark picture.
Sep 19th 2020, 12:05 AM 58,019 113

AMID A WORSENING situation with Covid-19 in Dublin, the government decided yesterday to move the capital up to Level 3 of its plan for living with Covid-19.

The new restrictions are now in effect, and will remain so until 9 October. 

While the government said there is a clear aim to stem the spread of the virus with these new restrictions, the announcement has prompted despair and frustration from businesses that now need to close again.

Dubliners are being told to stay in the county and only leave it for essential purposes, only have visitors from one other household in your home or garden and to work from home unless absolutely necessary.

Indoor dining in pubs and restaurants is now not allowed, with only outdoor dining permitted to a maximum of 15 people. 

Religious services must move online, matches and events are cancelled and indoor cultural venues like museums are closed.

Garda checkpoints will resume but the emphasis from government and doctors is that people need to take personal responsibility for following the measures.

“I know some people may not want to believe it, but this is getting serious again,” Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said yesterday evening. 

At the same press conference, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn painted a stark picture of how Covid-19 has begun to gain a foothold again.

He said: “This evening, 80 people are in hospital with Covid in Ireland. This compares to just 22 in hospital one month ago. In the entire month of August, four people died with Covid-19. Already in September, there have sadly been 17 deaths. 

If we do not interrupt transmission now, we are concerned we could have upwards of 1,000 cases per day by mid-October – and half of them in Dublin.

Under Level 3, schools stay open and Dr Glynn acknowledged that “tough decisions” have to be made in this regard. 

“When we decide to reduce congregation, so it can be education, it can be healthcare, it can be restaurants and other social settings, and in that context Level 3 is unfortunately about making really tough decisions to reduce social congregation,” he said.

CF7I2843 Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn Source: Julien Behal

Amid the grim figures, Glynn also said that “such an outcome is not inevitable” as he urged people to halve the number of people they come into contact with. 

He said that people should aim to meet half the number of people they met last week, as every effort will be needed to cut the transmission of the virus. 

Hospitality

There was confusion and concern from pubs and restaurants yesterday ahead of the government’s announcement as they questioned the logic of closing their businesses that have been adhering to the restrictions placed upon them. 

Des Buckley, the managing director of the FX Buckley steakhouses, said it had cost the business €45,000 in lost stock across five restaurants after they closed earlier this year.

“Now they’re asking us to do it again,” he said. 

The Taoiseach said last night that there was no blame being attached to such establishments.

He said: “There has been some criticism about the decision to pause indoor dining in restaurants and gastropubs for the next three weeks.  People reasonably ask why? It is a very fair question.

“The fact is that while we are seeing a lot of cases spreading in people’s homes, the initial infection is taking place outside the home and in the community. 

We need to keep the disease out of people’s homes in the first place. Our decision to act now on indoor dining is not any reflection on business owners who have done everything that was asked of them. We are doing this because we want to minimise the number of places where people can congregate and where the disease can spread for the next three weeks.

Following on from this, Dr Glynn was asked about comments made from his National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) colleague Professor Philip Nolan on Twitter who said “we would like to go back and find out where people are getting the virus, but we don’t have the time or resources to pursue this academic exercise”.

CF7I2979 (L to R) Eamon Ryan, Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin Source: TOM HONAN

He explained: “So if I went to a restaurant, seven or eight days ago, as an example, and happened to pick up the virus from another customer there, I would have no idea that I picked it up for a number of days until I develop symptoms.

“I then go to my GP. I then get a test, I get a test result after a day or two, I get contact traced. At that stage it’s very, very difficult for me as a person, or for the contact tracers who I’m speaking to, to precisely link my source of infection back to a restaurant that I was in a number of days ago.

But the international evidence is clear that restaurants, pubs, indoor settings like those are high risk environments for the transmission of infectious disease like this.

These comments did little to assuage the Licenced Vintners Association, which represents Dublin publicans, which took aim at the NPHET last night.

Its chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “They are closing down swathes of businesses in Dublin, pushing thousands of people out of work and yet NPHET admits they don’t have any data to show where the infections are arising in Ireland.

The pubs of Dublin widely accepted and backed the approach being taken by NPHET and Government at the beginning of this crisis. The approach being taken is shattering that support among the pubs of Dublin. It is quite clear that NPHET are not in this together with the pubs of Ireland and the Government are standing by and allowing them to sacrifice our sector.

The government is releasing €30 million in additional grant aid to businesses in Dublin among other supports to try to help businesses bearing the brunt again, but the new supports didn’t impress the likes of the Irish Hotels Federation. 

004 Swan Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Its president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said last night that the measures “fall far short of what is required”. 

She said: “While the effects will be felt acutely in Dublin, they will also be detrimental to many tourism businesses across the country with Dublin residents currently accounting for between 30- 50% of the domestic market.

“Already hotels and guesthouses across the country are reporting cancellations are up 35%, due to the drip feed of news this week about the potential lockdown. It is also very disheartening that only six hours’ notice was effectively given which shows little understanding of how our businesses operate.”

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At-risk groups

There is dedicated advice for those most at risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 in the new guidance for Dublin. 

Those over the age of 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue exercising their own personal judgement, but it recommended they stay at home as much as possible and limit their engagement to a very small network for short periods of time. 

They are also being told to avoid public transport, and shop during designated hours only while wearing a face covering.

Another feature of the new restrictions is the suspension on access for visitors to nursing homes, aside from critical and compassionate circumstances.

Sage Advocacy, a charity which supports older persons, said the new measures will have a detrimental effect. 

Its executive director Sarah Lennon said: “‘‘We fully appreciate the rationale behind why additional restrictions may be needed in Dublin but the Government has failed to take on board that older people have a right to enjoy and live their lives and should not be unnecessarily penalised at this time simply because of their age.

‘‘We understand that there will be occasions when specific risk assessments must be carried out on nursing homes but we believe that by suspending all visits at this time, outside of exceptional circumstances, will severely impact on both nursing home residents and their families and lead to stress and heartbreak.’’

Dublin will remain at Level 3 for at least three weeks until Friday 9 October. The government said it will review the situation again, based on the status of the virus and the current public health advice. 

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