Crowded back garden barbecues this weekend as temperatures soar are on a blacklist for Covid-19 spread amid warnings of “roaring growth” in the highly infectious Delta variant.
The HSE said yesterday that outdoor barbecues have been among the areas traced as a source of infection as the daily infection number hit 1,173.
Barbecues, outdoor dining involving groups, house parties as well as funerals and weddings are all implicated in outbreaks.
It comes as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly described the growth in the virus as “roaring”.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn also warned that people should not meet with others indoors and opt for outdoors while observing public health measures.
“We have seen a very significant increase in cases, not just in the 19- to 24-year-olds, but in the 17- and 18-year-olds and in the 25- to 30-year-olds. That entire age group is rising and rising quickly,” he said.
Commenting on the reopening of international travel in the EU, he said it remained a risky activity unless fully vaccinated or immune due to infection in the preceding months.
Spain and Portugal as well as the UK are in real difficulty at the moment with Covid-19 infections.
“We have seen hundreds of cases as result of travel here in the last number of weeks,” he added in an RTÉ interview.
But he ruled out any return to lockdown measures or any brake on the reopening of indoor hospitality.
There were 23 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care yesterday, up one from the previous day. Overall 79 patients were being treated for the virus in hospital.
Prof Philip Nolan, who tracks the virus for the National Public Emergency Team (Nphet), said that we were seeing a “rapid” increase in incidence in the 16-18, 19-24 and 25-34 year age group.
He warned the rise in the 16- to 18-year-old group was “exceptional.”
The vaccination portal opened for people aged 25 to 29 yesterday but it could be three to four weeks before all are offered a first jab.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “We continue to experience rapid increases in the incidence of the disease in the community, with cases increasing in 22 out of 26 counties and with the greatest majority of cases occurring in people who have not yet been fully vaccinated.
“The current trajectory of the highly transmissible Delta variant across the country means that unvaccinated people are at high risk of contracting Covid-19, with just over 50pc of today’s cases aged between 19 to 34 years old.
“We need those who are waiting for full vaccination to take every precaution this weekend and to adhere strongly to the public health advice as they await their vaccines – this includes limiting your social contacts, meeting outdoors, staying two metres apart, wearing masks and avoiding international travel.
“If you are experiencing symptoms of cold and flu: headache, sore throat, runny nose, please let your close contacts know, stay at home and get tested as soon as possible for Covid-19.”
Speaking in the Seanad, Mr Donnelly warned the Nphet modelling predicted there would be around 200 people in intensive care units in a few months, which could mean the curtailment of planned healthcare procedures.
The minister said there could be between 335 and 1,760 deaths from the virus over the next three months.
“In the War of Independence about 2,300 people died, to put it in context,” the Health
Mr Donnelly admitted the Government did not know yet how bad the fourth wave of the virus would be.
But he said they were preparing surge capacity for hospitals which were likely to come under pressure.
The minister said the variant was “much more transmissible than anything we’ve seen so far in this pandemic”.
He said there were particularly high infection rates in those aged 16 to 24 as well as rapid growth in cases for those aged 24 to 29.
He noted there had been calls for hospitality to reopen fully but said the experience from other countries showed this would drive up the rate of new cases.
“Given the rapidly increasing prevalence of the disease, particularly among those not yet fully vaccinated, I hope these calls will be dropped and that the proposed approach will be supported.”
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland