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Further restrictions in other counties 'not inevitable', says Acting Chief Medical Officer

Glynn appealed to seven counties to pay special attention to public health advice.

Updated Sep 26th 2020, 4:36 PM

THE ACTING CHIEF Medical Officer has said there is every chance that further restrictions may be implemented in other areas in the country, but it is not inevitable. 

In a video message, Dr Ronan Glynn appealed to people – particularly those in Donegal, Dublin, Louth, Cork, Kildare, Wicklow, and Galway -  to pay special attention to the public health advice.

“I ask every individual to take personal responsibility prioritising need to limit the size of their social network and reduce your social contacts over the coming days and weeks,” he said. 

“Because while there’s every chance that other areas in the country will have to move to level three. There is nothing inevitable about that.”

His plea comes as the situation continues to evolve nationally, with an increase in hospitalisations and over 3,700 new cases confirmed across the country in the past 14 days.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said, asking that people learn to live with the virus rather than “try to battle against it”. 

Glynn used Tipperary and Limerick as an example of counties that have turned the tide on the virus by working together, but that even in these counties “people need to keep going, making the right choices and denying Covid, the opportunity to transmit”. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned yesterday that localised restrictions may be needed in four cities to stem the rise of Covid-19 cases being notified there. 

Level Three restrictions kicked in overnight in Donegal as data published in recent days shows that the county’s 14-day Covid-19 incidence rate is now the highest in the country.

Outbreaks are particularly bad in the Lifford and Stranorlar areas, Glynn said. 

He said Nphet fully understands that this recommendation may be challenging for people in Donegal but that it was made to protect public health, and to prevent further worsening of the situation there.

It emerged during the week that people aged 15 to 34 account for 40% of Covid-19 cases in the past two months, despite accounting for just a quarter of the population.

On Friday, Dr Glynn and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Dr Michael McBride, made a specific appeal to teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s in Co Donegal and Derry to reduce their social contacts.

The chief medical officers said they were concerned about the significant proportion of cases in young people in Donegal and Derry, and asked teenagers and those in their 20s and 30s in particular to reduce their social contacts.

HSE Chief Paul Reid said the country should avoid knocking down the youth of Ireland but instead galvanise” them to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

Reid tweeted this morning: “Young people have made this country an even better place to live, in my book.

“Marriage equality, climate change awareness and much more, all enabled by them.

“Again we put a weight on their shoulders to help us with Covid-19. Let’s not knock, but galvanise them once again.”

The Government yesterday imposed country-wide level three restrictions on colleges and universities, which will see most lecturers moved online.

Students will be asked to visit campus for classes only when they cannot be done online. This will include practicals and labs.

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Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris told reporters yesterday that he doesn’t believe these measures point the finger at young people, and referenced the infamous Golfgate dinner saying “there were no young people at Clifden”. 

“We are also asking students to minimise travel and to minimise the number of social contacts on and off campus. We must do everything possible over the next few weeks to stop its spread and give students the best chance of resuming on site activity. Please stay safe and hold firm.”

The Chair of the HSE’s Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group said this afternoon that work is ongoing to bring the country’s testing capacity to where it needs to be.

“What we want to do from a testing perspective is that we want to be able to meet the demand that is there,” Dr Cillian De Gascun told RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday with Katie Hannon.

De Gascun said there has been a huge fixation recently on numbers which “probably isn’t helpful” but that ultimately the HSE wants to have the capacity to test everyone who needs to be tested.

He said the HSE has done a lot of work to ensure there is “a resilience and robustness that was not there in March or April” but that the return of schools highlighted that testing capacity was not sufficient. 

We’re monitoring a number of metrics looking at GP referrals in the system, the capacity for swabbing in community hubs, and the capacity for testing within the laboratories.

“What happened when the schools went back is that we reached the 100,000, I suppose has been classed as 15,000 a day, and what we saw was there was more referrals coming into the system than that 15,000.”

He added that the demand from schools has since “plateaued and stabilised” but that work is ongoing to bring testing capacity to “where it needs to be”.

The Department of Health confirmed an additional 326 cases of Covid-19 on Friday.

No new deaths due to the virus were reported.

- With reporting from PA

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Adam Daly

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