Ireland could enter a second national lockdown after the country’s health service recommended it moved to Level 5 of its coronavirus plan.
Prime Minister Micheál Martin and the leaders of his two coalition partners will meet the chief medical officer ahead of a cabinet meeting this morning, two government sources have said.
Under Level 5, people are asked to stay at home, except to exercise within five kilometres, and only essential retailers will be allowed to stay open.
However, schools and crèches will not have to close.
Dr Mary Favier, a member of Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), said the country could see between 1,500 and 2,000 cases a day by next month if strict measures are not imposed.
She also warned Ireland could be without ICU beds by that time if the surge in cases continues.
“If we keep going on the current trajectory, by the beginning of November we will have 1,500 to 2,000 cases a day and we will potentially not have ICU occupancy,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.
“The reality is that if things keep going as they are, if you or I had a bad road traffic accident in November or needed emergency cardiac surgery, there might not be an intensive care bed for you or I.”
But HSE chief executive Paul Reid, who does not sit on NPHET, warned of the impacts of a second lockdown.
“There’s obvious concerns about the trends on #COVID19. But we also know the impacts of severe & regular restrictions in society on the public health, wellbeing, mental health and the economy,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Level 5 recommendation to Government has to be considered in this context too. @HSELive.”
Most of Ireland is currently under Level 2 restrictions, with stricter Level 3 measures in Dublin and Donegal.
On Saturday, the country reported its highest number of daily cases since late April and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has risen steadily to 132.
Ireland’s two-week case rate of 104.6 per 100,000 people is only the 14th-highest infection rate out of 31 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Control.
However, Ireland has a relatively low hospital bed capacity compared with other European countries.
Ireland’s main business lobby, Ibec, has called for the evidence underpinning the advice to be published.
“It is intolerable that after six months we are still receiving both vague and changing criteria to advance such serious restrictions,” Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said in a statement.