A ban on intercounty travel is now needed to contain a fourth surge of Covid-19 in Ireland, a professor from University College Cork has said.
Prof Gerry Killeen, a research chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology and co-founder of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) which advocates for a zero Covid approach, said a ban must be considered for Covid hotspots.
With international travel also set to open for people who have been fully vaccinated, recovered from the virus or recently tested negative from Monday, Prof Killeen said now is the time to allow only fully vaccinated people travel.
“React locally, at a minimum, before we have found ourselves in trouble nationally,” he said.
“I would hope we would be able to keep some key elements of our outdoor summer, you know that kids would still be able to go to the GAA clubs.
“But we would need intercounty travel [banned], at least around those large outbreak areas.”
Hospitalisations up a third
It comes after 994 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Department of Health on Thursday evening.
The number of people hospitalised with the virus has increased by almost a third in the past week.
There were 80 people in hospital with 22 in intensive care as of Thursday, with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly expressing concern at more than 20 new admissions in a 24-hour period.
I’m concerned at the rising case numbers and we’ve had 20+ admissions to hospital in the past 24 hours. The vaccine programme is ahead of schedule and continues to give people greater protection. In the meantime we must be careful, stay safe and mind each other. https://t.co/nYEnsbLmaU
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) July 15, 2021
Meanwhile, the Tánaiste has said it is “not yet possible” to rule out bringing in further restrictions as cases continue to rise due to the Delta variant.
Leo Varadkar said people who are not fully vaccinated are the “new vulnerable” and should live the coming weeks “like it is March 2020” when a 2km travel limit was imposed.
He warned of how dangerous a fourth wave of the disease could be amid growing concern over the Delta variant, which now accounts for 80 per cent of new cases.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that those who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated are now the “new” vulnerable and over the next few weeks are “at greater risk than ever before in this pandemic, because this virus is so transmissible.”
Test and trace ‘in surge’
Meanwhile, there is concern hospitals may once again be forced to cancel scheduled care and procedures due to increased presentations at emergency departments and the Covid surge.
The spread of the Delta variant is accelerating “much quicker” than expected, the HSE has said.
The test and trace service is now “in surge” with more than 20,000 tests being carried out each day, while the positivity rate has soared to as high as 15 per cent in some test centres around the country.
Niamh O’Beirne, head of the HSE’s test and tracing operation, said the number of people coming forward for testing had jumped by 25 per cent in a single day.
In Northern Ireland, more than 1,000 further Covid-19 cases were confirmed on Thursday, the highest figure seen in six months.
Despite his earlier warning, Mr Varadkar also said that there is “no doubt” that indoor hospitality will reopen for the fully vaccinated in the Republic as planned on Monday, July 26th.
More than 70 per cent of the adult population have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and almost 60 per cent of adults are now fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, people aged 24 to 29 can register online for an mRNA vaccine from today.