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covid latest Gatherings with alcohol led to Covid-19 spike in autumn, Taoiseach says

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking to media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking to media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking to media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal/PA)

GATHERINGS with alcohol have been identified as contributing to spikes in the increased spread of Covid-19 in the autumn, according to Government research.

But Taoiseach Micheál Martin has refused to be drawn on what this means for the prospect of pubs reopening before Christmas.

Mr Martin said the Government will decide on how to exit Level 5 restrictions on Thursday or Friday.

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And, asked if ministers would be prepared to deviate from advice offered by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), he replied: "Nphet obviously will give its advice but government will decide how we exit level 5".

Mr Martin said Ireland is currently the second best country in the European Union in terms of have lower numbers of cases.

He said: "We need to get that into our heads. Level three and restrictions of households that we brought in and then Level 5 did work".

He added: "We've brought the numbers well down. We want to go lower. Of course we do. And we've got another week to get the numbers down again."

Mr Martin said Ireland's 14-day incidence rate as of yesterday was 109 cases per 100,000 while some EU countries are up at 1,000 per 100,000.

He said the objective of Covid-19 restrictions is to save lives and protect public health and livelihoods.

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There will be a series of meetings across Government and with Nphet as ministers mull over the goal of exiting Level 5 restrictions due to expire next week.

Mr Martin said data from August, September and October is being examined as will as international data on super spreader events.

He warned: "Gatherings and congregation with events with alcohol help facilitate the spread of the virus."

Mr Martin also said: "How we behave collectively, is very, very important.

"What has emerged is that the move on restriction on household visitors after we had introduced Level 3 seems to have had an impact.

"So we have to bear that in mind as we move through December."

Asked what his remarks on alcohol meant for the reopening of pubs he said: "I haven't made any specific comment in relation to any specific sector".

He said he was just outlining research from home and abroad on "the combination of a series of events that certainly led to a spike in cases in early autumn."

Mr Martin stressed that "no decisions have been made yet".

He said he will meet Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan this evening and Cabinet will meet tomorrow.

There will be further meetings - including with Nphet - as the week goes on, though Mr Martin said that ministers will also be busy in the Dáil with legislation designed to prepare the country for Brexit.

Mr Martin said: "I'm not going to get into specifics as to what will and will not be open.

"Suffice to say that the Irish people have made a lot of sacrifices.

"This Level 5 has been difficult and the restrictions on households has been difficult for people...

"We get that we understand that.

"But the good news is that what you are doing is working.

"We're managing our hospitals in terms of ICU numbers, in terms of hospitalisation.

"We've kept our schools open. That's no mean achievement and construction has stayed open."

He said people's efforts have been effective adding: "We just need to keep at it."

Mr Martin said the prospect of vaccines on the horizon is "not a moment to relax or to say we can now stand back."

He said the National Vaccines Taskforce is to have a strategy on the roll-out prepared for Government by December 11.

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