Increased Mask Wearing Proposals Expected To Be Considered By Nphet
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet today (Thursday November 25) and is expected to consider proposals around increased mask wearing at outdoor events and possibly in primary schools.
As reported by rte.ie, President of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland Professor and Nphet member Mary Horgan said that avoiding lockdown would be the right way to go but that the situation has to be watched very closely.
Horgan reportedly said while speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland radio programme that she hopes that another lockdown can be avoided, that there are "loads of tools" that need to be effectively used in order to achieve this, and, "Avoid lockdown at all costs would be the right way to go at this point in time, but it's always a bit uncertain and unpredictable."
Horgan reportedly added that the current situation in hospital is steady and that it would good to see COVID-19 cases decline, and reportedly said that the benefits of the booster operation are already being seen on the frontline.
Horgan reportedly said that she is a big advocate of antigen testing and that it is time to trust the population and use antigen testing in a measured and appropriate way.
It is reportedly believed that Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said at a Fine Gael meeting on the night of Wednesday November 24 that the current COVID-19 wave looks to be plateauing at a worryingly high level, but also that people are responding positively to guidelines to stop the current wave.
Varadkar reportedly told colleagues that the country does want to go into Christmas with this high a plateau of infection, and reportedly said that the COVID-19 trajectory is uncertain, but that everything will be done to avoid another lockdown.
Varadkar reportedly added too that the third dose vaccine programme is working and that cases are falling in the over 70s.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin reportedly told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party that people are adjusting their behaviour in response to the public health advice and that this is having an impact.
The Taoiseach reportedly said that the vaccine booster campaign will be scaled up and that private hospitals will provide surge capacity.
The Taoiseach reportedly also said that the government recognises the challenge facing the hospitality sector, and that both he and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath will meet representatives from the sector.
Minister For Health Statements
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly reportedly told the Dáil during statements on COVID-19 that they are seeing several EU countries reintroduce restrictions, and that steps being taken are "working in protecting our population", and that demand for testing "remains extremely high".
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Statements
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Doctor Ronan Glynn reportedly said that Nphet may have to make new recommendations if there is further disimprovement in the trajectory of COVID-19.
However, Glynn reportedly said that nothing is set in stone and that it is "lots of small changes by people across the population" that will make the difference to the spread of the disease.
Glynn reportedly added, "We will have to see where we are in a week or ten days' time and if necessary, provide further advice at that point."
Glynn reportedly said that Nphet will examine new data on COVID-19 today (Thursday November 25) and look at updated modelling again next week.
Glynn reportedly explained that it is only at this point that Nphet will be able to say whether Ireland is headed towards the optimistic or pessimistic scenario modelling, and reportedly said that the latest modelling is from around ten days ago and that he hopes a significant change in behaviour will change the trajectory of the disease.
Glynn reportedly said while speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne radio programme that the positivity rate is plateauing, but at a high rate of 20%, but that the majority of people are now hearing the message and cutting back on social contacts.
Glynn reportedly explained that the positivity rate is just one indicator and that the first priority is to prevent people from getting sick and ending up in hospital and dying.
Glynn reportedly said that despite the high levels of disease in the country, much fewer cases are translating into serious hospitalisations, ICU and mortality, and reportedly also called for anyone who plans to return home to visit their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles over Christmas to "rein in the socialising" in the intervening weeks.
Glynn reportedly said that the hope is that the "vast majority of our population will be vaccinated and boosted in a few months' time, but we have a few difficult weeks ahead".
Glynn reportedly said that last year there was a lot of inter-household mixing in the first two weeks of December and then this was followed by inter-generational mixing after December 20 that resulted in high infection rates, and that those aged over 50 need to be particularly careful in the coming weeks, and reportedly added that "it is not for us to tell people you can't do anything in your life [but we are] telling the entire population to prioritise their discretionary social contacts".
Glynn reportedly said that while there is concern about what the weeks ahead will bring for this country, there is an opportunity today to change the course of what happens, and, "This is an avoidable disease, it's a preventable disease...we can avoid it."
Fewer Ice-Skating Rinks Due To Insurance Costs And COVID-19 Restrictions
Meanwhile, insurance costs and COVID-19 restrictions reportedly mean that there are fewer ice-skating rinks around the country as the Christmas season gears up.
Fewer operators are reportedly taking on the financial risk of running a rink, with Blanchardstown in Dublin reportedly being one of the only towns on ice this year as most counties have reportedly had to forego their usual Christmas skating rink.
The Alpine Skate Trail in Fota Island in Cork is reportedly also open to the public for the first time.
Mullingar in Co. Westmeath reportedly had an ice rink in 2018 and 2019, and reportedly attracted 40,000 visitors each time it was open.
President of Mullingar Chamber John Geoghegan reportedly said the rink brought new life into the town, and, "It breaks our hearts this year that it's getting canned. It's a shocking situation, but we're not on our own."
Geoghegan reportedly added, "Kids love it, families love it. You can set your clock to the footfall on the street, it was an unbelievable success."
However, the cost of insurance is reportedly making it less and less viable for businesses to operate skating rinks.
Cool Runnings is reportedly the only business operating rinks this year.
Managing Director Bill Cremin has reportedly decided to open only two pop up rinks this year, in Cork and Dublin, instead of four.
Cremin reportedly said, "Our insurance premium is well into the six figures. That's commercially sensitive information so I can't tell you how much exactly but what has really allowed us to be able to get insurance this year is we've had to accept a very high excess on our policy."
Cremin reportedly added, "From an insurer’s perspective, they wouldn't be exposed to any financial risk unless there's a very large, significant claim so to a large extent, we are self-insuring."
The defence costs are reportedly particularly crippling for the industry, despite recording less than a handful of claims each year, according to Mr Cremin.
Cremin reportedly said, "What we're dealing with every day is the huge cost of defending claims, so a claim that would cost €15,000 for example, could easily have €30,000 in costs that would be divided between the solicitors,", and, "We had a claim recently that went to the High Court; the value of the award given was €65,000 but legal costs on both sides were over €500,000 so insofar as the awards are certainly driving up premiums, a much larger factor is the level of legal costs involved."
It is reportedly not all about money, however. While ice-skating is not the first sport that comes to mind in Ireland, it has reportedly been increasing in its popularity over the last two decades, according to President of the Ice-Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) Karen O'Sullivan.
The ISAI reportedly would usually have between 200 and 250 people availing of lessons over the course of the weekend but this year will reportedly have to forego any skating programmes, such is the difficulty to rent ice.
O'Sullivan reportedly said, "Our biggest risk to our sport is the lack of insurance in the market here in Ireland, so for many people they're not going to learn to skate this season and it'll be the second season we won't be able to run a Learn To Skate programme.
"Nearly every season we'd see a new intake of six to eight-year-olds and they're not getting that opportunity. We also get lots of adults who come in wanting to learn because it is not necessarily just an elite sport, it is a recreational or physical activity for a large majority of people and they're postponing learning and the older we get we might fall into perspective that we won't actually take it up."
The ISAI, along with Geoghegan, has reportedly called for the government to protect Ireland's rinks before next season's plans are put on ice again.
Geoghegan reportedly said, "As a country it has opened up our thinking of how we do Christmas in Ireland and we've started to follow the European model now where you have a beautiful Christmas market and an ice rink,", and, "I think the councils and the government need to look at this because if you think each of these is worth €3 million to the local economy, then when you multiply that you could have between €30-40 million generated every Christmas which is fantastic."
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.