The Cabinet met this afternoon to decide how best to respond to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Dublin. We have accepted the recommendation of the National Public Health Emergency Team for Dublin, city and county, to move to Level 3 for three weeks.
This is similar to the approach taken in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, which proved effective in quickly suppressing the spread of the virus.
The number of new cases per day, the number of hospitalisations, including to intensive care, are continuing to rise. Modelling projections suggest that in a few weeks, and at the current rate of increase, Dublin would be at the same levels seen in April and May. More cases are being seen in older age groups, and several wards in Dublin hospitals have, in the past few days, become dedicated COVID-19 wards. There has also been an increase in the number of cases associated with nursing homes in recent weeks.
The national 14-day incidence rate is 62 per 100,000. In Dublin it is 121 per 100,000. In early July, the national incidence rate was 3 per 100,000.
The trajectory is clear.
Our modelling estimates that if the current pattern of disease transmission continues there will be between 500 and 1,000 cases per day one month from now, 50-60 per cent of which will be in Dublin.
I am acutely aware of how difficult these measures are for families, for businesses, for community groups, for sports and for those in the arts. If we didn’t act, many lives would be put at risk. Health services would be put at risk. Many, many more jobs would be put at risk. This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is how we will suppress the virus.
The decision made by Cabinet was based on various factors, including:
- the growing risk that the overall volume of disease would result in greater level of transmission among more vulnerable groups in our society.
- the risk that greater levels of transmission in more vulnerable groups would lead to increased hospitalisations and deaths.
- the risk that the situation in Dublin would accelerate the growth in cases in other counties across the country.
These measures are targeted specifically at limiting social contacts and reducing congregation.
Many EU countries are also at a critical juncture. In recent days the World Health Organisation’s regional director warned about increased transmission in Europe and said that the figures "should serve as a wake-up call for all of us".
France recorded its highest daily number of cases this week since the pandemic began. New measures are being introduced in Madrid, where cases have soared. In Italy, officials are reporting around 1,900 new infections each day - a significant rise from 200 in early July.
Each and every one of us must change our behaviour to slow the spread of COVID-19. Simply put, we need to do this to save lives.
We all must be vigilant. Earlier this week, I was advised by my GP to have a COVID-19 test. I was fortunate to receive an undetected result, which indicates I do not have COVID-19, but I am still self-isolating, as per the public health guidance.
Everyone in the country, not just those in Dublin, should reduce their social contacts immediately.
The measures introduced in Dublin from midnight tonight will require collective buy-in and support from everyone. We can reduce transmission of this virus. We have worked together since the beginning of this pandemic, and it’s important that we all continue play our part now.
Notes to the Editor
- Over the past two weeks (to 17th Sept) 2,970 cases were detected. For every 100,000 people living in Ireland there were 62 new cases. A few months back (early July), when restrictions were being lifted, there were just 3 cases per 100,000 population.
- In Dublin there have been 1,629 new cases which means there have been 121 new cases for every 100,000 people.
- Cases are widely spread across Dublin. Most areas of Dublin have an incidence rate of over 100 cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks.
- Half of people in Dublin who have contracted COVID-19 have gotten it via close contact with a confirmed case. However, 35-40% of cases are linked with community transmission, meaning we don’t know enough about how they got it to link these cases to a defined outbreak or other means of transmission.
- More cases are associated with private house outbreaks in Dublin than in the rest of the country.
- On Friday morning, there were 80 patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Last Friday morning that number was 53. Of these 80 patients, 51 are in Dublin area hospitals.