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Harris: 'No indication there is a second wave here, but not pausing Phase Four would be grossly irresponsible'

Ireland is the eighth best country in Europe in relation to Covid-19, says Minister Simon Harris.

The Higher Education Minister said there is no need to visit 'every friend you've ever had'.
The Higher Education Minister said there is no need to visit 'every friend you've ever had'.
Image: Sam Boal

THERE’S NO INDICATION of a second wave in Ireland, according to the Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

However, Harris said it would have been “grossly irresponsible” to ignore public health advice and move forward with phase four.

“We are the eighth best out of 31 countries in Europe in relation to Covid-19,” he said.

“There isn’t an indication that there is a second wave here currently,” he said, reiterating what Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this week, that the numbers remain low.

On Tuesday, the Tánaiste said the government did anticipate that there would be “spikes and clusters” with the reopening of the country, but indicated there wouldn’t be a nationwide lockdown again.

“We are doing really well, but what we did last night is we decided that now is the safe time to press pause to try and maintain that progress,” Harris said today.

“We always said we would accelerate if it was safe to do so, but equally stop when we are told to do so,” he said. 

There are “encouraging signs” in our hospitalisation rates, which the minister said “are very low”.

The ICU numbers and fatalities are also very low, he said. 

Today, 21 new cases were confirmed, and one death recorded.

There are eight people in ICU at the moment. There were 70 people in ICU at height of the lockdown in March. There were no hospital admissions in the last 24  hours.

Harris said he was concerned about the number of younger people contracting the virus.

He said he was concerned about a younger person transmitting the virus to an older person.

The five-day average has also gone up from 9 new cases a day, to an average of 19 over a five-day period.

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At today’s HSE press conference Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said there is a very low rate in long-term residential care units.

Speaking about the reproductive number, Dr Nolan said their “best estimate” is that it is now above one – it could be 1.2 or as high as 1.8.

He said now they are “in a position of high uncertainty”.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the measures taken yesterday by pausing moving on to Phase Four was largely “preemptive”.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said 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.

Harris said now is not the time “to meet up with every friend we’ve ever had, lets apply that bit of cop on and common sense”. 

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