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This report to NPHET breaks down how lockdown in Ireland compares to other countries

Restrictions on hospitality, curfews and gatherings are among the key differences between countries.

Image: Shutterstock/Corona Borealis Studio

CURFEWS, HOSPITALITY AND the number of people allowed to meet are some of the key differences between European countries’ strategies for curbing the spread of Covid-19.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has submitted a report to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on an international review of how 18 countries tried to combat the virus in recent weeks up to the middle of March.

The most prominent differences between countries’ strategies have been how or to what extent movement is restricted, the number of people permitted at gatherings, and opening hours for businesses allowed to open in the hospitality sector.

In Spain, Sweden, Israel and Italy’s yellow regions, bars and restaurants were open but with restricted opening hours, reduced capacity, and limits on the number of people in one party.

Most bars and restaurants that closed were permitted to provide a takeaway service, such as in Ireland.

Non-essential retail was largely closed in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Czechia, the Netherlands, Portugal, England, Scotland, Wales and red regions in Italy.

Seven countries – Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain – had night time curfews in place in the middle of March.

Movement between regions was limited in Italy, Portugal and Spain, while people were advised to stay at home in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Travel in Ireland is limited to within 5km of home outside of certain exceptions.

Outdoor facilities such as parks, playgrounds, gardens, lakes and beaches were mostly open in the countries studied, while indoor sports centres, fitness centres and swimming pools were generally closed.

Primary schools are partially or fully open for in-person teaching in all the countries studied except for Czechia and certain regions in Italy.

Israel has been allowing a maximum of 50 people to meet outdoors and 20 indoors, while Switzerland imposed a 15-person limit outdoors and five indoors.

In other countries where gatherings were allowed, the limit on gatherings was no greater than ten outdoors (Belgium) and two households with four adults and two children indoors (Austria).

In Ireland, no indoor or outdoor gatherings are permitted under current restrictions.

The review examines countries that were experiencing a surge in cases in October and that NPHET identified as being in a similar phase of responding to the pandemic as Ireland.

The countries studied in the review are Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Switzerland and Israel.

Ireland is one of only five countries included in the review to have seen a reduction in the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 in the week leading up to 14 March, alongside the UK, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Israel.

All other countries in the review recorded an increase.

The only two countries with hospitalisations per million people lower than in Ireland were Denmark and Netherlands.

In ICUs, the number of patients per million were only lower in the UK and Denmark.

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Since January, hospitalisations and admissions to ICU have been the highest in Czechia and Portugal. 

HIQA Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment Dr Máirín Ryan said that Ireland’s approach after the increase in cases in December was “robust”.

“Our strategy has been successful to date in limiting the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland but a further reduction in the burden of Covid-19 on our healthcare system will be necessary if the system is to deal with the waiting lists for non-Covid-19 care.”

“The types of measures that have been applied are generally consistent across the countries we studied, but vary in detail, including the use of night time curfews, the number of people allowed to meet and the opening hours for hospitality businesses,” Dr Ryan said.

The percentage of the population fully vaccinated in Ireland was largely in line with other countries included in the review.

Most other countries ranged between a 2.3% (the UK) and 4.3% (Switzerland) share of the population fully vaccinated.

Israel was an exception, with 47.5% of the population vaccinated.

However, the rate of weekly change in the share of the population fully vaccinated was lower in Ireland than the majority of countries included in the review.

The weekly percentage change in Ireland was 8.5%, which was lower only in Austria (8.4%) and Belgium (8.3%).

The next lowest country was Czechia at 12.6%, and the highest was the UK with a 40.4% weekly change.

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