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easter covid rising Children's play dates on banned list as we face two more months of lockdown


There has been a warning over children's play dates

There has been a warning over children's play dates

There has been a warning over children's play dates

Easter camps for children have been blacklisted by public health officials amid concerns that play dates, St Patricks’s Day parties and Mother’s Day celebrations have been fuelling the spread of Covid-19. 

It comes as Covid-19 spread remains volatile and the overall situation “high risk”.

”Moving between play dates, Patrick’s Day parties, Mother’s day parties where more and more people are coming together... they are not appreciating the risk of onward transmission,” HSE public health specialist Dr Miriam Owens said. “Children are reflecting what is in the community. What seems to be happening in the community is people are getting tired and feel it is time to relax. But it is not time to relax.”

Dr Owens was speaking at last night’s Covid-19 briefing where Professor Philip Nolan, who tracks the virus, revealed there was a four- to six-fold increase in children under 12 referred by GPs for testing.

There has been a 40-50pc increase in cases in young children since February but he said just a fraction was linked to schools.

“I know it is a controversial thing for me to say, but simply because things are happening at the same time – because they are happening concurrently – does not imply a direct cause-and-effect relationship.”

Asked about advertisements for Easter camps for children, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said he would appeal to organisers not to hold them and to parents not to get their children involved.

Earlier, Prof Nolan warned the current spread of the virus was either static or “potentially disimproving”.

The situation remains volatile and one of “high risk”, he added.

Three more deaths and 606 new cases were reported yesterday. The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meets on Monday to make recommendations to Government for re-openings on April 5, but the signals last night were that they will remain cautious.

The message was that another two months and a significant roll-out of Covid-19 vaccine is needed before there is room for significant easing of restrictions.

Dr Glynn again held out hope of what vaccination can bring with the promise of a return to the kind of normal living not experienced since 2019.

However, the difficulty in getting people to “stick with it” is seen in a new ESRI survey showing that in January one in 20 people has been visiting other people’s houses.

But in the week ending March 14 this rose to one in 10.


Professor Philip Nolan of Nphet. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Professor Philip Nolan of Nphet. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Professor Philip Nolan of Nphet. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

He said while it showed the “vast majority” of people were following public health advice, it did represent a significant change. Dr Owens said public health doctors were finding instances where people were meeting up for a game of cards.

Parents were meeting up outside the school gates and creches more than they had been.

The return to school also means parents were able to meet up with others during the day, she added.

The reopening of classes also led to a signal that more people returned to the workplace.

Asked to comment on earlier remarks by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that pushing daily case numbers down is not a prospect because of the infectious UK variant, Prof Nolan said that while it was hard to see, “we have proven we can do this”.

”We did better three or four weeks ago when we managed to keep our contacts a bit lower,” he said.

There were 312 people with Covid-19 in hospital yesterday, including 75 in intensive care.

The number of intensive care admissions is declining slowly.

Prof Nolan said he was looking to hospitals where there was a constant number of 20 to 25 admissions a day.

This is an indicator of the level of disease in the population separate to testing.

“For me this is the strongest indicator that we are in a static or disimproving situation.”

The HSE is worried a rise in cases will lead to another increase in admissions.

The deaths indicator stabilised again after falling, with around 50 to 60 fatalities a week. There has been a slight increase in deaths in the community. The good news is there has been a “near-disappearance” of virus in residential settings and this must be linked the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Dr Lorraine Nolan, of the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), said 5,500 reports of suspected side-effects from Covid-19 vaccines had been notified

She said most were transient and expected. “We have three safe and effective vaccines, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, and we will shortly add the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to increase the roll-out of protection against this highly transmissible disease.”

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