There have been no further deaths related to Covid-19 in the State and 45 new cases confirmed, according to figures released on Saturday evening by the Department of Health.
This means the death toll from the virus stands at 1,763 while the total number of cases in the State rises to 26,109.
In a statement, the department’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said: “Over the last five days we have seen an average of 44 cases a day. This trend is clearly concerning and now is the time to ensure you and your families are making every effort to keep each other safe.
“Ensure gatherings are kept to a minimum and invite no more than 10 others into your home.
“Do not organise or attend house parties.
“Restaurants must enforce a limit of 50 people (including staff) on their premises at any one time.
“All workplaces should again review their procedures and protocols.
“Avoid congregated settings or environments where safety precautions are not in place.
“Wash your hands regularly, carry hand sanitizer and wear a face covering where appropriate.
“Ensure you isolate immediately if you experience any flu like symptoms.
“It is our individual action that will stop the spread.”
Of the latest cases notified, 23 are men and 22 are women. Some 77 per cent are under 45 years of age (50 per cent are aged 25- 44 years).
Nine cases are located in Co Limerick, eight in Co Kildare, seven in Co Mayo, six in Co Cavan, four in Co Dublin with the remainder spread across five other counties.
A total of 18 are associated with outbreaks or close contacts of a confirmed case, while 12 cases have been identified as community transmission.
The HSE said it was working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread.
On Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the number of Covid-19 cases would be monitored “very carefully” over the weekend before the Cabinet decided whether or not to proceed to the next phase of the reopening of the economy.
Under phase four of the reopening roadmap, pubs that do not serve food would be allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors would be permitted.
The Cabinet’s decision on whether phase four can start on August 10th is due on Tuesday.
Friday night saw 38 additional cases of Covid-19 reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) following a spike of 85 new cases on Thursday.
Pub trade uncertainty
Speaking on Saturday, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the Government’s decision to wait until next week to decide whether pubs should reopen the following Monday was “deeply unhelpful” and “adding real stress” to publicans and staff.
Donall O’Keefe, chief executive of the LVA, which represents publicans in Dublin said guidelines for reopening pubs were supposed to be published three weeks ago.
“They were then meant to be published this week. They weren’t. So we now have pubs across the country having to guess if they will be able to open on August 10th and also having to guess what rules will then apply to them,” he said.
“This isn’t conducive to effective preparation. We see absolutely no reason why the guidelines couldn’t have been published earlier.”
Mr O’Keefe said by August 10th pubs will have had “no income” for just under 150 days, which is more than 40 per cent of the year.
“In Dublin alone at least 2,450 pubs jobs have already been lost in that period and 11 pubs have gone out of business. Further delays will result in more job losses, more stress on these publicans and their staff and more businesses closing their doors for good,” he added.
“The pub sector is the last industry to reopen, despite being the first to close. We have been singled out. If this treatment is to continue then the Government needs to be forthcoming about what they plan to do to protect the future of a sector which continues to be deprived of an opportunity to earn a living at the request of the Government.”
The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents publicans outside the greater Dublin area, said public health is the number one priority but “as the experts learn more about the virus it’s clear a blanket ban on pubs opening is not the answer”.
“In Australia, where there is a substantial increase in Covid cases, pubs in Victoria will remain open because the authorities view pubs as a safe, controlled environment where social distancing can be enforced,” said Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the VFI.
“They view house gatherings, which are now banned, as more dangerous. We need that type of approach here in Ireland.”
Mr Cribben said publicans have been forced to order stock and rehire staff “once again” before the Government has announced its decision on reopening pubs.
“No other sector is being treated in this manner and, it should be noted, this is the third deadline publicans have faced with no guarantee they will be allowed open,” he said.
“The delay in publishing guidelines is a further blow to our members. With just one week to the planned reopening, publicans remain in the dark about what specific protocols will be introduced. For instance, can customers sit at the bar counter? This is a hugely important issue for rural pubs and if the counter is off limits many publicans say they won’t bother opening.”