A leading infectious diseases expert has said that Ireland moving to Level 5 lockdown is a ‘no brainer’ as cases continue to rise.
Speaking on Sunday night following shock recommendations for tight restrictions from the National Public Health Emergency Team, Professor Sam McConkey said the rise in cases outside Dublin is “really shocking”.
The infectious diseases consultant said: “We have to do something as a nation as we can’t allow the rise to continue”
Prof McConkey added that the new restrictions would be a “no brainer” but insisted that “require a massive public buy-in”.
“We can fix this. It’s not as bad as it was last March and by May, June it was fine. We can do it again.”
The leaders of Ireland’s three coalition parties are to meet with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holahan today to discuss a potential return to lockdown.
Dr Holohan and NPHET have recommended that the whole country moves to Level 5 – the highest level of the Government’s coronavirus plan.
Cabinet ministers are said to have been taken aback by the proposals and there are concerns that such a move would be damaging to the economy.
If approved by Cabinet, it would represent a return to the strictest possible public health measures, similar to those seen in April and May.
However, in a Level-5 scenario, schools and creches would remain open.
People would be asked to stay within 5km (three miles) of their homes, while all non-essential retail outlets would close.
Like most of Europe, Ireland has seen a steady increase in infections since the end of July after emerging slowly from one of Europe’s most severe shutdowns. It reported the highest number of daily cases since late April on Saturday.
However Ireland’s 14-day cumulative case total of 104.6 per 100,000 people represents only the 14th-highest infection rate out of 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control.
Europe’s worst infection hotspot Spain has an infection rate three-times higher than Ireland and while it severely tightened confinement measures in hard-hit Madrid on Friday, restaurants, gyms and shops can still open at limited capacity.
Ireland has a relatively low hospital bed capacity compared to other European countries. The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients has risen steadily to 132, but peaked at 881 in April during the first lockdown.
Ireland’s main business lobby, Ibec, reacted with dismay, calling for the evidence underpinning the advice to be published.
“It is intolerable that after six months we are still receiving both vague and changing criteria to advance such serious restrictions,” Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said in a statement.