By Caoimhe MacLochlainn
The Republic of Ireland have moved to Level Five restrictions in a bid to stop rising infection rates of Covid-19. Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the more severe restrictions would remain in place for at least a month.
The country had returned to stricter coronavirus restrictions on Christmas Eve with the closure of restaurants, hairdressers and gastropubs. Level Five restrictions include a ban on all household visits, the closure of non-essential retail and a 5km limit on travel. Further restrictions include the closure of sports; including gyms, golf and tennis. Weddings are limited to six guests from Jan 2 and only ten people are allowed to attend a funeral.
On December 30, the Taoiseach released a statement on the re-introduction of Level Five restrictions of the Plan for Living with Covid-19. He warned that the latest surge of the virus was different to the second wave.
“We are seeing rising incidence of the disease across all age groups, especially those aged 19-24 and a very worrying increase among those aged 65 and older,” said Mr Martin.
On Saturday January 2, statistics showed that the median age is now 35 in Ireland.
The Department of Health has released the latest Covid-19 figures as the country braces for a second school shut down. The new figures released by the HSE have shown that the number of school-age children who tested positive increased by 130% in the space of a month. This data from Dec 29 shows that there were 1,064 Covid-19 related cases in children aged between zero and 18 for the week ending Dec 26. There were 463 Covid-19 cases among school-age children the week that Ireland exited its six-week nationwide Level Five lockdown. Therefore the numbers have doubled in less than a month.
Schools were to remain closed until January 11 rather than January 6. However, the Government is considering shutting schools for the rest of January. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called for schools to remain closed, reiterating calls from teacher’s unions which have recommended for schools to remain closed until January 18 at the least.
“Spoke with Taoiseach to raise growing concern on safe return to school & childcare – return next Monday is not realistic,” Ms McDonald tweeted on Monday 4 January.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 hospitalisations have increased by a staggering 97% in just one week. The national Covid-19 hospitalisation rate is now approaching figures seen at the peak of the first wave of pandemic. The highest recorded number of coronavirus hospital admissions occurred on April 15.
In his statement the Taoiseach said the Reproduction number was currently estimated at between 1.6 and 1.8 and that the situation was “extremely serious.”
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) revealed that there have been 17 additional deaths related to Covid-19. Altogether there has been a total of 2,282 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland. As of midnight, Monday January 14, the HPSC has been notified of 5,325 confirmed cases. There have now been a total of 113,322 confirmed cases in Ireland.
Close contacts will not be tested during this time, according to the HSE.On their website it saysclose contacts need to restrict their movements (stay at home), even if they feel well. If they develop symptoms of Covid-19, they are told to self-isolate and phone a GP for further advice.
Donegal woman, Courteney Creedon (23), works for the HSE’s Coronavirus Helpline and said they were very busy with the rise in cases after Christmas.
“Even people who were showing symptoms were having to wait three days to be tested because close contacts were taking up all of the appointments. It’s mental but we’re not as busy as last week now that the close contacts aren’t being tested,” Ms Creedon said.