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Seating with the enemy Plan for 15 to dine at a single table very risky, warn scientists

Experts warn infectious variant ‘could get out of control before we realise it’

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Having children at a table means that the outing usually happens earlier in the day – and is less likely to involve alcohol

Having children at a table means that the outing usually happens earlier in the day – and is less likely to involve alcohol

Having children at a table means that the outing usually happens earlier in the day – and is less likely to involve alcohol

Ireland is in danger of getting into “serious trouble” again with Covid-19, amid concerns at plans to allow tables at pubs and restaurants to seat up to 15 people, including nine children, experts warned yesterday.

The Fáilte Ireland guidelines for pubs and restaurants permit six adults and up to nine children to sit together indoors and outdoors.

Experts have said that their greatest concern is about the risk of spreading the virus indoors.

Prof Anthony Staines of Dublin City University said that while outdoors is safer, “our case numbers are still high and we are flying blind, because of lack of data due to the cyber attack.”

As another 448 cases were reported yesterday, he said the risk of the more infectious so-called Indian variant meant the situation could “get out of control before we realise it."

“We are going back too fast. I hope we get away with it. Nobody wants another outbreak.”

Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said that “outdoors is less problematic”.

“But once you put a significant number of people in a pub, you are creating the right conditions for the spread of the virus.”

He pointed to the rise in cases of the Indian variant in the UK, and also to recent evidence that just one dose of Covid-19 vaccine offers lower protection against this form of the virus.

Prof Emer Shelley, dean of public health at the Royal College of Physicians, said the advantage of having children at a table is that the outing with parents happens earlier in the day – and is less likely to involve much alcohol for the adults.

“Children who have the virus are likely to have a milder illness and seem to transmit the virus at at a lower rate than adults.

“There is something to be said for families getting together, compared to adults later at night when more alcohol is involved.”

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However, she warned the big risk comes from people from countries with a higher incidence of the virus travelling to countries with lower rates.

It is still unclear if these Fáilte Ireland guidelines will be endorsed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre – the country’s disease watchdog, which produces official guidance around the easing of lockdown measures.

Crunch decisions will be made around the guidelines relating to outdoor versus indoor in pubs and restaurants.

It is also unclear if the Fáilte Ireland guideline – of a one-metre space between tables – will be accepted.

Prof Staines said he has concerns, as since the cyber attack there is a lack of detailed information about who is “getting infected and where they are”.

“The problem with infectious disease is your risk affects everyone. We had multiple chances to control this and we have blown everyone of them. We don’t know what the story here is with the Indian virus.”

The Government will face key decisions tomorrow on the setting of a timetable to reopen foreign travel later this summer using an EU Covid green certificate.

France yesterday declared a mandatory quarantine period for travellers arriving from the UK in an attempt to curb the spread of the variant first identified in India.

“There is a new situation with the progression of the so-called Indian variant in the UK,” a French government spokesman said.

Austria has banned direct flights from the UK while travellers arriving from the UK into Germany must quarantine for two weeks.

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