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Dublin: 19°C Thursday 18 August 2022

Total of five Covid outbreaks in pubs reported during pandemic

There is a push to get pubs open next month.

Image: Shutterstock/IsabellaO

THERE HAVE ONLY been five Covid-19 outbreaks in pubs since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest HSE data.

All five outbreaks are now closed cases.

There is a push within government to get pubs back open in October, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar telling his party colleagues last night that publicans should be given a chance to show they can open safely.

Varadkar also said that he doesn’t know why Ireland should be the only country in Europe where pubs are not open. 

His comments come as the Dáil debates legislation that will give gardaí powers to close down and sanction pubs that break Covid guidelines. 

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the new law “paves the way” for the reopening of pubs that do not serve food. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly agreed that the new laws will put manners on the rogue pubs that are flouting the rules.

“The aim is to get pubs open as early as possible,” he said.

When asked about the reopening of ‘wet pubs’ this week, Acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn said the National Publich Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is not fundamentally against the reopening of wet pubs.

He said he would like to see a stabilisation over the next couple of weeks in the numbers, and then the situation would be reassessed.

Dr Glynn said the re-opening of pubs is always under review, but health officials do not believe the trajectory of the virus has improved enough for this to happen now. 

In backing up their reasoning for not reopening pubs a number of weeks ago, NPHET presented a paper to government that it said provided international evidence that pubs have been linked to clusters. 

The evidence released cited 12 news sources including RTÉ, BBC and the Guardian.

The advice goes on to cite a number of cases in Spain, Australia, the United States, Canada and Korea where clusters emerged in bars. 

The reaction from publicans was one of shock, that news articles, rather than research papers, were being used as a basis for keeping their businesses closed.

The CEO of the Licensed Vintners’ Association Donal O’Keefe told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that things need to happen far more quickly after the pubs were closed for six months.

He said: “We do have a concern that possibly there will be a decision announced in the next roadmap in the middle of September for an October reopening.

“That’s just too slow for us given where we are,” he said. 

Meat factories 

While publicans argue that thea number of clusters associated with pubs is low, there has been a renewed focus this week on the conditions in meat factories. 

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For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can make sure we can keep reliable, meaningful news open to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. reported last week that nearly 1,500 cases have been linked to meat plants.

The latest data shows that figure has risen again, with 1,536 cases now linked to 31 meat factories.

In the week ending 29 August, the HSE said one new meat factory outbreak was notified, accounting for 59 cases. Ten cluster cases remain open. Of the total figures, 34 meat plant workers have been hospitalised and 11 have been in ICU.

The HSE has also confirmed that there were four new outbreaks reported in vulnerable populations in the last week in August – two in direct provision centres and one in a homeless facility. One outbreak accounting for 22 cases was also confirmed in a Roma community.

HSE boss Paul Reid said today that 3,000 tests have been completed among meat plant workers as part of the serial testing programme, with a positivity rate of 0.4%.

Testing will now be expanded to workers in other food processing sectors such as fish and mushrooms. 

The latest data shows that in total, there have been 277 nursing home outbreaks – 38 of which are still open cases, and 191 in residential institutions, of which 29 remain open.

In addition to the five outbreaks in public houses, there have been two outbreaks in hotels and five in restaurants/cafes.

Clusters are classed as more than one person being identified as positive for the virus in a setting. 

Last month, one outbreak in a pub/restaurant involved 26 cases and that subsequently led to 10 additional cases in another workplace.

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