EXPLAINER: How would a lockdown of Limerick be called?

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

Email:

aine.fitzgerald@limerickleader.ie

What do Donegal people find hardest about Covid-19 lockdown?

There is widespread talk locally that Limerick is facing into a lockdown following an increase in Covid-19 cases

WITH 40 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Limerick in the last 14 days, there is widespread talk locally that the city and county could be facing into a lockdown.

There are currently three counties in a so-called ‘lockdown’ - Kildare, Offaly and Laois.

As new incidences and clusters of Covid-19 emerge throughout the country in the coming weeks and months, experts warn that the reality is that more lockdowns will be rolled out across the country in a bid to curb the further spread of the virus.

“Could Limerick be looking at a lockdown? Yes, of course it could,” a medical expert told the Limerick Leader this week.

“I know health officials in the Mid-West have been informed of a number of clusters and told to monitor the situation. However, there has been no official talk of a lockdown just yet. A lot will depend on the numbers in the coming days and the success of the contact tracing.”

Lockdowns, he said, may not be on a county-basis going forward.  “I think a lot will be learned from the current situation with the three-county lockdown and as time goes by and more and more information is gleaned from the situation, we could be looking at more targeted lockdowns rather than on a county-by-county basis.” 

Figures released on Tuesday showed Limerick was the county with the fifth highest number of instances of Covid-19 per 100,000 population, after Kildare, Offaly, Laois and Clare. Kildare was at 146.1 while Limerick was on 18.5 per 100,000 population, which was the national average on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said that it was important “not to lose sight of the fact that in the last 14 days we've had 36 cases in Limerick, 34 cases in Clare, 21 cases in Wexford, 20 cases in Meath, 22 cases in Cork, 21 cases in Donegal, 14 cases in Cavan and eight cases in each of Galway and Mayo. 

“So, this is not just about the three counties and it continues to be a pandemic that affects us nationally and it continues to require a national effort to overcome it.”

Shane Beatty of Newstalk asked Dr Glynn if, in relation to the counties “at the top end that you mentioned there, are you looking at similar lockdown measures there that you have in the three counties already?

Dr Glynn’s response on Monday was: “So, I've been very clear that NPHET as things stand do not envisage any such measures in any other part of the country at the moment and let me be very categorical that we do not want to be in a position where we’re having to make recommendations like this. But obviously, what happens next week, the week after, the week after that is unknowable at this point. So, all we can do as NPHET is monitor the situation really closely and be guided by the data and the evidence as it emerges.”

So what is the process by which a lockdown in Limerick would be called?

“The public health doctors on the ground in the Mid-West would feed their information to NPHET and into the Health Protection Surveillance Centre which is the HSE,” the medical expert explained.

“It is on the basis of that data that NPHET would make a decision whether or not they would recommend any of these local lockdowns - even though they are not really lockdowns as you can still travel to work and do other things. 

“Ultimately then the decision is made by the government. So it would stem from local doctors having a concern that the number of positive cases in the region is such that it could cause a general community spread. In the case of Limerick and Clare recently it is mostly young people who are involved in sport and social events. 

“So it would be up to the Department of Public Health in the Mid-West to essentially feed the information back up to NPHET and into the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, and it’s then the government's call.”

The Limerick Leader urges readers to stay safe and to adhere to the public health guidelines. See https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/