Ireland tightens pandemic-related curbs in capital Dublin – dpa international

Social distancing guidelines in St. Stephen's Green, a park in central Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s capital Dublin faces three weeks of tougher coronavirus-related restrictions than the rest the country, the government said on Friday, with indoor dining banned in restaurants and religious services prohibited. Announcing the measures, which take effect from midnight, Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin said they are needed as otherwise “Dublin could return to the worst stages of this crisis.” After conducting almost as many tests over the past two months as the preceding five, Ireland has since August seen a similar resurgence as elsewhere in Europe of new daily case numbers of the novel coronavirus. The Department of Health announced 253 new cases on Friday, almost half of them in Dublin, which is home to 1.4 million of the country’s 4.9 million people. Friday’s announcement means that Dublin follows cities such as Madrid and Reykjavik into tighter restrictions relative to elsewhere in their countries, with one of Europe’s longest pub shutdowns to be extended in the capital ahead of the rest of Ireland’s pubs reopening on Monday.

In latest tweak to coronavirus rules, Ireland to allow small crowds at sporting events – dpa international

Mayo gaelic football goalkeeper David Clarke and team mates at McHale Park in Castlebar ahead of a clash with Monaghan in March 2019 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government said on Tuesday that “limited crowds” will be permitted to attend sporting events in the country as part of the latest adjustment to the country’s coronavirus-related rules. Attendances will be capped at 200 people where stadium capacity exceeds 5,000, with 100 the limit at smaller facilities. Some of the bigger grounds, such as the 82,000-capacity Croke Park and the 51,700-seat Aviva Stadium, will have tailored limits to be set at a later date. Among the main events coming up are the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League football ties against Wales and Finland and Ireland’s rescheduled Six Nations rugby clash with Italy on October 24. Gaelic football and hurling tournaments, which usually are held during the summer and draw crowds of over 80,000, will start in October and end before Christmas.

Irish government gives green light, again, for pubs to reopen – dpa international

Pouring pints in an Irish hotel restaurant on June 29 2020, the day some pubs and restaurants were perrmitted to reopen

DUBLIN — Pubs can resume pouring pints from September 21, Ireland’s government decided on Tuesday, ending a prohibition introduced in March as part of a pandemic lockdown. “About time,” the Licensed Vinters Association, a group representing Dublin pubs, posted on Twitter. “Absolute relief,” said Mellett’s, a pub in the west of Ireland. Citing health worries, the government previously postponed a scheduled mid-July reopening three times, though restaurants and pubs serving food were allowed to open from June 29 – with provisos that drinkers purchase a meal priced at 9 euros or more and leave after one hour 45 minutes. Another 3,500 pubs have had to wait, prompting anger among owners left out of pocket after restocking ahead of the postponed reopenings. “We have been marched up this hill several times before,” said Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, in a Tuesday statement.

Neglect of chronic diseases heightened by pandemic response – dpa international

Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Most countries are failing to curb non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer, according to research published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, which said the situation has been made worse by coronavirus-related disruptions to health systems. Only six countries are on track to reduce deaths from such conditions, including heart disease and chronic respiratory disease, by a third by 2030, according to the report, referencing commitments made in 2015 as part of the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals.” The novel coronavirus pandemic has “disrupted the regular care often required by patients” affected by non-communicable diseases, who are in turn among the most vulnerable to serious illness if infected with the virus, which can cause a disease known as Covid-19.

Irish government reimposes some virus curbs on midlands region – dpa international

Hand sanitiser near the entrance of a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A resurgence of coronavirus cases in parts of Ireland has prompted the government to stop residents of three adjoining counties from travelling elsewhere in the country for two weeks. Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced the curbs in a Friday evening press conference, saying that “over the past week, there have been a number of localised clusters, which are of serious concern.” The restrictions affect counties Laois and Offaly, as well as Kildare – a densely-populated county that is part of the commuter belt ringing capital Dublin. The almost 400,000 people living in three counties can only travel elsewhere in Ireland – which recorded a population of 4.76 million in the 2016 census – for work or “essential” purposes such as medical treatment. 

Scottish Catholic shrine gets tech salvation for holy water drought – dpa international

DUBLIN — With concerns about coronavirus leaving most Catholic churchgoers without their cherished holy water, a prototype contactless dispenser is being trialled at a shrine in Scotland. In use starting this week at Carfin Grotto in the town of Motherwell, the device resembles a water-cooler or liquid soap dispenser and is activated by cupping a hand near a sensor positioned under the water. A video posted on the Carfin Grotto Facebook page shows the dispenser in action, with the narrator thanking a parishioner named Paul Lawlor and a local tech firm known as Lawlor Techologies for the device. “One of the things we’ve been missing the most,” the narrator said, “is blessing ourselves with holy water.”

Irish central bank says virus curbs caused ‘deep downturn’ – dpa international

Some retailers open, some not, along central Dublin street in June (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The novel coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions could shrink the Irish economy by nearly 14 per cent in 2020, according to the country’s central bank. In a report published on Friday, the Central Bank of Ireland said that a “widespread shutdown of businesses caused by the pandemic” led to “sudden and large-scale job losses” and a “severe negative shock to both consumer spending and investment.” The worst-case scenario of a 13.8-per-cent recession is based on the virus lingering through the year and prompting some restrictions to be reimposed. The bank’s best-case outcome would see Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) down by 9 per cent, slightly better than the 10.5 per cent projected earlier by the Finance Ministry.

A bit different: Ireland’s pubs reopen but under new pandemic rules – dpa international

Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

CLAREMORRIS — Some of Ireland’s pubs were pouring pints on Monday for the first time in nearly four months as the country lifts most coronavirus-related restrictions. Speaking over the evening chatter of customers in The Western, a pub and hotel in Claremorris – a town of around 4,000 people in the west of Ireland – manager Patrick Mitchell said “we had no idea what to expect today, we have been quite busy, but it is a bit different.” Patrons are allowed one hour and 45 minutes drinking-time in bars that serve food – as long as they splash out on a “substantial meal” priced at 9 euros (10 dollars) or more and adhere to social distancing requirements. Inside The Dalton Inn, about 100 metres down the street from The Western, owner Andrew Cooper said “we’re sticking strictly to those rules.” The regime means that only bigger pubs equipped with kitchens will reopen for now – with the food tab so far a deterrent to would-be punters.

British team announces ‘major breakthrough’ in Covid-19 treatment – dpa international

At the entrance to a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Face masks are widely-used in some countries as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus - a disease for which there is no vaccine (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A steroid called dexamethasone should be given to patients affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, British researchers reported on Tuesday. Tests on 2,104 patients showed that low doses of the drug cut deaths by a third among patients on ventilators and by a fifth among those receiving oxygen, findings described by the researchers as a “major breakthrough” that “will save lives.” “One death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” said the research team, which is testing a range of drugs on 11,500 Covid-19 patients at 175 British hospitals/ Martin Landray of the University of Oxford, one of the trial’s leaders, said that dexamethasone, a drug in use since the 1960s to treat inflammations and conditions such as asthma, could prove a “remarkably low cost” means of combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Estimate puts 1.7 billion people worldwide at risk of severe Covid-19 – dpa international

Social distancing markers on floor of Dublin supermarket (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Some 1.7 billion people have at least one underlying health condition that “could increase their risk of severe Covid-19 if infected,” according to a British medical journal. Estimates published in The Lancet Global Health point to heightened risks from the coronavirus pandemic in regions with relatively high numbers of older people, such as Europe, and in regions with a higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS, such as Africa. Using data from 188 countries, the authors of the report estimate that 66 per cent of the world’s over-70s have an underlying condition – such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease – that could leave them vulnerable should they contract the new coronavirus. That percentage drops to 23 among working-age people, with only 5 per cent of under-20s estimated to have developed such a condition.