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Government advises over 70s to limit interactions, tells people to limit home visits to six people

Health officials have expressed concern at rising case numbers in recent weeks.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at this evening's briefing.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin at this evening's briefing.
Image: RTÉ

Updated Aug 18th 2020, 6:34 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS advised people aged over 70 to limit their interactions to a small network of people and is also asking people to keep gatherings in their homes small. 

The move follows recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. 

Health officials have expressed concern at rising case numbers in recent weeks.

Today, 190 cases were confirmed, there were 56 yesterday, 66 cases on Sunday and 200 on Saturday.

As part of the new restrictions, all visits to homes will be limited to six people from outside the home, and from no more than three households, both indoors and outdoors. 

The fresh advice is aimed at addressing larger numbers at private house parties. The limit of six people does not include those living at the home

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 15 people, with restaurants and cafes, including pubs operating as restaurants remaining open, but with mandatory restrictions on closing times of 11:30 pm.

People aged over 70 are to be asked to exercise their individual judgment to limit their interactions to a small network for short periods. 

Sports events and matches will revert to behind closed doors with strict “avoidance of social gatherings”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said. 

People are also being told that public transport should be avoided where possible and face masks worn on private transport when households are mixed.

Gardai are also to be given new powers to enforce the public health measures.

All businesses are also being told to continue to facilitate remote working where possible.

The new advice is to remain in place until 13 September. 

The question about whether so-called ‘wet pubs’ are to remain closed past the end of this month is to be revisited over the coming weeks

On weddings, no separate advice has been issued but the Taoiseach acknowledged that people required “some proper notice” when planning weddings and that the government will review this matter. 

Speaking at this evening’s government announcement, Martin said that the country is “at another critical moment”. 

“If we want to limit the number of people who get seriously ill or die because of the virus. We need to follow these public health measures. And for those who are asking if the controls are really worth it. Or if we are somehow overreacting. I’d ask you to remember something, 2,332 people have lost their lives on this island.

Many thousands more were seriously ill and saved by incredible professionals working under immense strain. We can’t go back. If we falter now every sacrifice we’ve made to date will be for nought. 

Martin added: “The evidence is that a large number of people are acting as if the virus is no threat to them or that it is okay to take a few more risks.

Many people seem to believe that if they or those they are socialising with have no symptoms there is no problem.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that “the key message is to limit the number of contacts you have”. 

“We all want to keep our loved ones safe to protect the most vulnerable to protect our health services, and to ensure that all of our children get back to school, over the coming weeks,” Glynn said. 

“Please do not have more than six people over to your house, or garden, and no more than six people should meet up in any indoor setting. Outside, no more than 15 people in total should meet up, and even then people should physically distance from one another,” he added. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: 

My priority as Health Minister is to stop the spread of this virus before it takes a bigger hold in our community and becomes much, much more difficult to contain. We’re now seeing multiple clusters throughout the country, in people’s homes, in multiple workplaces and in a number of other social settings.

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“Our 14 day cumulative cases per 100,000 of population. A key measure looked at by Nphet and by the WHO is now 26. That’s come up from four, our five-day average of new cases is 116 new cases per day and raising. Today, the total number of new cases is 190.”

Older people

Alone, the organisation which supports older people, said it appreciates that the measures announced today seek to protect older people from contracting the virus. 

The organisation said it had been worried that a total reintroduction of cocooning measures would have a negative effect on the mental and physical wellbeing of older people in the coming weeks. 

Alone said it is also concerned about the impact of Covid-19 as the weather begins to get colder, and has called on the government and NPHET to “start putting plans in place for the winter months”. 

“We must implement the learning from the last few months and ensure that homecare and other services to support older people are not only maintained but increased to meet demand,” the organisation said. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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