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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 13 August, 2020

Health Minister: 'If the R-rate continues at 1.8 for three weeks, we could have 150 cases a day'

Donnelly also said that from a disease perspective, gastro pubs are seen as restaurants.


HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said that the reasons for delaying Phase Four until 10 August were to try to prevent a second wave, and defended the decision not to allow pubs that don’t serve food to open.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Health Minister said that although Ireland has “been doing well,” and that the prevalence of the disease is “one of the lowest prevalence of the disease in the European Union at the moment” – with both hospital admissions and ICU admissions low – there are concerns about the increase in the R-number.

The R-number is the rate at which the disease spreads from an infected person to other people – so if the R-number is at 1, an infected person will spread it to an average of one other person.

Donnelly said:

NPHET are very concerned… This R-number, which we’re all very focused on, has gone above 1. They believe it’s somewhere between 1.2 and 1.8, they believe that within about three weeks we could be up to 150-160 cases per day. 

He also said that there is also concern about some big clusters, too.

“There’s another key measure which is the 14-day cumulative cases - so the total number in the last two weeks per 100,000 population that’s gone up from 2.5 cases to 3.9, so a big jump. 

The five-day average has also gone up from 9 new cases a day to 22 new cases a day.

“Their advice to us yesterday was essentially in order to stop” a second wave happening, Donnelly said.

Donnelly was also asked about what extent house parties and social gatherings have contributed to this rise, given that social gatherings have now been limited from 30 people to 10 people. 

“So if there’s five of you living in the house, then you can be up to 15,” he said, adding that the people should not be from more than four households.

There have been some very serious clusters that the public health officials are very worried about. 
What you can have is you can have one person who is infected but they’re asymptomatic they don’t know they are. They go to a party, everyone’s talking loudly, there’s plenty of droplets going out into the air – you can end up with 20 to 30 people walking out of that house infected.

Pubs vs gastro pubs vs restaurants

When asked why pubs that don’t serve food should stay closed because of this, Donnelly said that NPHET looked at the international evidence, which showed that when restaurants opened and public health guidelines are followed, “it hasn’t led to an increase in cases”. 

But according to international evidence analysed by NPHET, opening pubs and clubs has led to a “serious rise” in cases.

When asked the difference between pubs who serve food, which are allowed to open now, and pubs that don’t, which won’t be allowed to open until 10 August at the earliest, Donnelly said the Acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn was asked about this issue:

From a disease perspective, they’re not saying it’s restaurants and gastro-pubs, they’re saying it’s restaurants. And if the pubs can act as restaurants then they’re restaurants. 
Based on the R-value and based on what they’re seeing, they’re saying now is not the time to open the pubs and we just need to bring it back to the original start date.

“All pubs are being treated the same… we are prioritising the opening of the schools, over the accelerated opening of pubs and nightclubs. 

Donnelly said that 50,000 tests had been done in the past seven days, and 1.3 million people have downloaded the app. 

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“We are going to be living with this awful disease for quite some time,” he said.

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