Follow the latest coronavirus news in Ireland and across the world on the Independent.ie live blog.
Ruby fears Covid will close racecourses
Ruby Walsh fears that an 11-week lay-off for Irish racing amid the Covid-19 pandemic could see “a racecourse or two go by the wayside” and be unable to reopen.
Irish racing will recommence on June 8 at Naas after missing 87 fixtures and the retired jockey believes that some tracks will be crippled financially as a result.
The 41-year-old feels that “some racecourses are going to struggle” to stay afloat during unprecedented times and that some may not race again due to the consequences of the current world health crisis.
“Racecourses have lost a lot of meetings already, which means they’ve also lost the revenue – the sponsorship, hospitality, gate receipts, and media rights,” Walsh told Paddy Power News.
US states accused of fudging coronavirus testing data
Public health officials in some US states are accused of bungling coronavirus infection statistics or even using a little sleight of hand to deliberately make things look better than they are.
The risk is that politicians, business owners and ordinary Americans who are making decisions about lockdowns, reopenings and other day-to-day matters could be left with the impression that the virus is under more control than it actually is.
In Virginia, Texas and Vermont, for example, officials said they have been combining the results of viral tests, which show an active infection, with antibody tests, which show a past infection.
Public health experts say that can make for impressive-looking testing totals but does not give a true picture of how the virus is spreading.
In Florida, the data scientist who developed the state’s coronavirus dashboard, Rebekah Jones, said this week that she was fired for refusing to manipulate data “to drum up support for the plan to reopen”.
In Georgia, one of the earliest states to ease up on lockdowns and assure the public it was safe to go out again, the Department of Public Health published a graph about May 11 that showed new Covid-19 cases declining over time in the most severely affected counties.
White House launches scathing report against China
The United States on Wednesday issued a wide-ranging attack on China highlighting Beijing’s predatory economic policies, military buildup, disinformation campaigns and human rights violations.
The 20-page report, which comes amid the two countries’ simmering feud over the coronavirus, does not signal a shift in US policy, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But it does expand on the tough rhetoric Donald Trump hopes will resonate with voters angry about China’s handling of the disease outbreak that has left tens of millions of Americans out of work.
“The media’s focus on the current pandemic risks missing the bigger picture of the challenge that’s presented by the Chinese Communist Party,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday before the White House released its report.
‘It was a big surprise because I haven’t really left the house’ – Watford star opens up on positive test
Adrian Mariappa has revealed his shock at being told he was the Watford player who had tested positive for coronavirus, despite not displaying any symptoms or breaking social-distancing guidelines.
Mariappa’s was one of six positive results to come back from the first wave of Premier League testing this week, along with two members of Watford’s staff and Ian Woan, the Burnley assistant manager.
The 33-year-old defender, who lives with his partner and three of his four children, has spent lockdown dividing his time between following his Watford fitness programme and homeschooling.
Speaking yesterday, Mariappa said: “Ever since I got my positive result back on Tuesday, I’ve been scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus. It was a big surprise because I haven’t really left the house, apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids. I’ve mainly just been homeschooling and keeping fit.
Health Minister Simon Harris wants to re-introduce cancer screening as soon as possible
The Health Minister said he wants to re-introduce routine cancer screenings as soon as possible.
It comes amid concern at a backlog following the pausing of Breastcheck, CervicalCheck and BowelScreen due to the pandemic.
Labour leader Alan Kelly called on the HSE to confirm screening programmes will return.
“The fact that most public cancer screening programmes such as BreastCheck and CervicalCheck have been suspended for over ten weeks is causing a great deal of stress, particularly among women.”
“Eleven thousand screens take place each month. One person dies of cancer every hour in this country. Some can’t be prevented but some can if they are found early enough.”
Full-length court sittings may resume in Ireland from Friday
Full physical court sittings could resume from Friday, the Courts Service has said.
The Chief Justice, the Hon Mr Justice Frank Clarke, announced on Wednesday that all physical court sittings are to be limited to two hours daily.
However, the deputy chief medical officer said meetings lasting longer than two hours are not barred under coronavirus guidance for workplaces.
Dr Ronan Glynn’s comments come after moves by the Dail and Ireland’s courts to use that timeframe in restricting the length of sittings and hearings.
Matt Damon, Tiger King and Normal People: Covid has turned us into a bunch of fanatics
My brother saw Matt Damon in Dalkey the other day. It was a brief and uneventful celebrity sighting – they drove past one another on the road – but it was more than enough to pique my interest when he told me about it afterwards.
“What kind of car was it?” I asked. “Was he driving fast or slow? Was he in good form, do you think?”
I’m not sure where this sudden fanatical interest in Matt Damon stems from, but I think it’s fairly safe to conclude that I’m not alone.
We’ve become a little obsessed with Matt Damon, in much the same way we’ve become collectively fixated on a series of predictable, yet inexplicable, lockdown distractions.
It started with Tiger King, which is an undeniably brilliant piece of TV. The cast of characters are stranger than fiction, the plot is a creaking rollercoaster ride and Joe Exotic’s shirt collection has to be seen to be believed.
Full article here:
People with rare diseases concerned over impact of Covid-19, survey finds
Almost three quarters of people living with a rare disease in Ireland are concerned that their condition may deteriorate due to the impact of Covid-19, a survey has found.
A report, carried out by Rare Diseases Ireland, has revealed how the coronavirus crisis is hindering access to routine treatment and care for people with rare diseases.
The findings has prompted Rare Diseases Ireland to call on the Government to ensure the provision of healthcare services for people with rare diseases.
The report heard from 176 people living with a rare condition, their family members and their carers, in the two-week period leading up to May 6.
Taoiseach hopes to ‘accelerate’ reopening of society
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would like to be able to accelerate the reopening of the country, but said it is “too soon” to make the call.
As Ireland eased into its first phase on Monday, which saw the opening of some retail stores and sporting activities, the impact on the potential spread of Covid-19 will not be known until early June.
Leo Varadkar said the public’s actions have worked as Ireland is reporting a very small number of new Covid-19 cases every day.
“We just need to monitor the situation now over the next two weeks.
“We have the plan, which everyone’s familiar with at this stage,” he told Newstalk Breakfast radio show.
Random blood testing should point to the real rate of coronavirus infection
Hundreds of thousands of people in this country are likely to have been infected by the coronavirus.
The official figures of more than 24,300 diagnosed cases only relates to those confirmed in a laboratory.
Taking a blood sample from a random number of people in the population and analysing it for antibodies should give some measure of the true rate of infection. Only people who have had the virus and recovered develop antibodies.
The value of the exercise – which will aim to target a representative group of the population to provide a national picture – is that it would shed light on age groups and parts of the country where it has hit most.
It will give a clearer insight into how lethal it is and the death rate from the virus.
It may not be possible for all pupils to return at same time – teachers’ union
It may not be possible for all children to return to school at the same time in September, the head of a primary school teachers’ union has said.
Schools and creches have been closed in Ireland since March.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle has written to the Department of Education outlining a range of concerns.
Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, he said teachers have been supporting students for the past eight weeks so they can continue their learning.
“If the public health advice allows for schools to re-open in September then all the proper planning must take place. It is a mammoth task to have the plans in place.
“We have the largest class sizes in Europe, having 30 children in an 80 square metre classroom with one or two adults may not be possible initially in September.
“If we couldn’t have large groups of students sitting in a room doing the Leaving Cert then having lots of children in a classroom was always going to be an issue.”
Key groups of pupils could return to school in Northern Ireland in August
Schools should aim to reopen to key groups of pupils in the third week of August, Northern Ireland’s education minister said.
All children are intended to restart classes on a phased basis, involving a mixture of physical attendance and remote learning, in September if enough progress is made in curbing coronavirus.
Exams for entrance to post-primary schools are due to be held two weeks later this autumn to allow more time for primary teachers to catch up on lost lesson time since the lock down halted teaching in March.
Minister Peter Weir said: “This will not be a return to school as it was prior to Covid, but rather a new normal reflective of social distancing and a medically safe regime.
“For all pupils it will involve a schedule with a mixture of school attendance and remote learning at home.”
No sign of V-shaped bounce as Eurozone sees further collapse of business activity
Economic activity in the Eurozone plunged again in May and although the decline was not as steep as in April when the pandemic hit the economy hard, there were few signs that a sharp recovery was in the offing.
Having hit a record low reading of 13.6 in April, the IHS Markit Purchasing Manages Index rose to 30.5 in May.
“The Eurozone saw a further collapse of business activity in May but the survey data at least brought reassuring signs that the downturn likely bottomed out in April,” said Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS.
The index is among the most closely indicators globally and comes out before official data. A reading over 50 indicates an expansion, so the May reading was still well in negative territory thanks to the pandemic lockdowns.
Clarks to cut 900 office jobs in major turnaround plan
Shoe retailer Clarks has said it plans to cut 900 office jobs as part of a major shake-up.
The 195-year-old British firm said it has announced 160 redundancies globally today, including 108 job losses at its headquarters in Street, Somerset.
The retailer said it expects that roughly 700 employees will leave the business over the next 18 months, after creating 200 new roles.
Clarks said the move is intended to help the company operate in a “lean, effective and quick manner”.
Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook’s record on coronavirus misinformation
Mark Zuckerberg has defended Facebook’s record of combating misinformation on the social network during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Facebook founder and chief executive said the platform removed all content which “puts people in imminent risk of physical harm”.
But he argued that freedom of expression was a factor around other content, such as posts around the anti-vaccination movement, which he called a more “sensitive topic” and did not, therefore, need to be completely removed.
Social media and internet companies have come under increased scrutiny during the Covid-19 pandemic, with platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp being criticised for allowing misleading claims to spread.
“We break this (misinformation) into two categories: so there’s harmful misinformation that puts people in imminent risk of physical harm, so things like saying that something is a proven cure for the virus when in fact it isn’t, we will take that down,” Mr Zuckerberg told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Breakdown of latest figures
Latest data from the HPSC, as of midnight on Tuesday (24,274 cases), reveals:
- 57pc are female and 43pc are male
- The median age of confirmed cases is 48 years
- 3,183 cases (13pc) have been hospitalised
- Of those hospitalised, 392 cases have been admitted to ICU
- 7,747 cases are associated with healthcare workers
- Dublin has the highest number of cases at 11,765 (49pc of all cases) followed by Cork with 1,386 cases (6pc) and then Kildare with 1,381 cases (6pc)
- Of those for whom transmission status is known: community transmission accounts for 60pc, close contact accounts for 37pc, travel abroad accounts for 3pc
12 more people have died from Covid-19 in Ireland as another 76 test positive for coronavirus
The Department of Health have confirmed that 12 more people have died as a result of the coronavirus.
It brings the total number of fatalities related to the virus in Ireland to 1,583.
They also confirmed that 76 more people have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases in Ireland to 24,391.
Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said: “We have experienced 6 consecutive days of under 100 new confirmed cases in Ireland. This is very positive and demonstrates the extent to which the public’s actions have limited the spread of this disease. However, it is only through continued commitment to hand washing, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing that we will remain successful in suppressing the spread of COVID-19 through the community.”
Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said; “Most indicators continue to improve, with ICU and hospital admissions, number of cases per day and number of deaths per day continuing to decline. Prevalence of the virus remains low in the community. The reproduction number is well below one, so our task remains to maintain low transmission of the virus.”
Welsh Government defends testing policy after referral to human rights watchdog
The Welsh Government has defended its policy on coronavirus testing in care homes after it was reported to the human rights watchdog.
The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales reported the Welsh Government to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over delays to testing in care homes.
But Wales’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, said the advice and evidence was that there “wasn’t a value” in testing people who were not symptomatic.
It comes after the EHRC said last week that it was “deeply concerned” about breaches of older people’s human rights across the UK during the pandemic.
The watchdog said it is considering the use of all its powers to protect their rights both now and following the pandemic.
Premier Inn owner Whitbread to raise £1bn to weather virus crisis
Premier Inn owner Whitbread has revealed plans to raise £1 billion through a rights issue, as the vast majority of its hotels and all its restaurants remain shut in the face of coronavirus.
The company said it has furloughed around 27,000 staff on full pay during the crisis.
It said its UK hotels are “ready to open when the Government advises” but said its internal plans assume that hotels will be closed, or run at low occupancy, until September.
Whitbread said it has tested new operational protocols at 39 Premier Inn sites which have remained open in the UK to provide accommodation to NHS staff.
It said the operating model ensures strict social distancing, significantly enhanced hygiene standards and specific staff training which can be rigorously enforced across its hotels.
WHO warns against use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19
A World Health Organisation official has warned against the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, following President Donald Trump’s claim on May 19 that he was taking the drug.
Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, noted that health authorities – including the US Food and Drug Administration – have issued warnings about the drug’s potentially lethal side effects. There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective for treating Covid-19.
Dr Ryan said: “Warnings have been issued by many authorities regarding the potential side effects of the drug, and many countries have limited its use to that of clinical trials, or during clinical trials, or under the supervision of clinicians in a hospital setting. That’s specifically for Covid-19 because of a number of potential side effects that have occurred and could occur.”
UK lab say they will begin supply of Covid-19 vaccine in September
AstraZeneca has said it has the capacity to manufacture one billion doses of the University of Oxford’s potential Covid-19 vaccine and will begin supply in September.
The pharmaceutical firm said it has secured the first agreements for at least 400 million doses of the vaccine.
It said it aims to conclude further deals in order to expand capacity over the next few months to “ensure the delivery of a globally accessible vaccine”.
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that if the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate proves successful, then up to 30 million doses for the UK could be available by September.
The Oxford team is currently testing the vaccine candidate in humans.
EasyJet to resume flights from June 15
EasyJet is to resume flights from a number of UK airports from June 15.
The low-cost carrier announced that its initial schedule will involve mainly domestic flying in the UK and France.
Further routes will be confirmed “over the coming weeks” as demand increases and coronavirus lockdown measures across Europe are relaxed, the airline said.
UK airports to be served by easyJet from June 15 include Gatwick, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Belfast.
The only international route from the UK will be between Gatwick and Nice, France.
High-profile pubs co-owned by former Leinster star take High Court action against FBD
A group of Dublin pubs co-owned and run by a former Leinster rugby star have taken High Court action against insurer FBD.
Pressure is mounting on insurance companies from businesses in the hospitality sector as restaurants and pubs prepare “for the big battle ahead” as they look to recover losses suffered due to the coronavirus.
Hyper Trust Ltd, trading as the Leopardstown Inn, is the latest to initiate proceedings.
Happy meal – why I’m no longer ashamed of loving a McDonald’s
The Golden Arches. The Hamburglar. McNuggets. Happy Meals. It’s a restaurant so beloved it pretty much has its own instantly recognisable lexicon, and after nine weeks of a McDonald’s-free life, we can now return to its familiar fare.
Well, sort of. Dubliners can enjoy McDonald’s via one of six drive-thru restaurants. Naturally, the fast-food chain was trending on Twitter for much of yesterday. Those lucky enough to be within a chip’s throw of one of the six outlets were proclaiming that it was “like Christmas”.
McDonald’s is having a moment, but most of us have been ‘lovin’ it’ for as long as we can remember. All those lovely childhood afternoons spent eating high-salt, high-carb, high-fat food while a giant plastic model of a clown presided over us. All those birthday parties spent chucking paper hats, thick milkshakes and Happy Meal toys at each other.
‘Time running out’ for testing plan before second wave, says top UK health figure
The Health Secretary has been told “time is running out” for the Government to launch its testing and tracing system if a possible second wave of coronavirus is to be avoided.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a testing and tracing system considered essential for easing the current coronavirus lockdown will be up and running by June 1.
But Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation – which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock because his members were “concerned” over an apparent lack of a clear strategy.
WATCH: Face coverings could reduce the spread of virus
Face coverings could reduce the spread of Covid-19, according to a new study by the University of Edinburgh.
Research has found that wearing a face covering can reduce the forward distance of an exhaled breath by more than 90pc.
As the breath could contain small droplets of water, some of which may contain traces of the virus, experts have said that covering up the mouth and nose could help combat Covid-19.
Scientists testing the effectiveness of seven different types of face coverings, including medical grade and home made masks, say they could all potentially limit the spread of coronavirus.
Oxfam to close operations in 18 countries with potential loss of 1,450 jobs
Aid agency Oxfam International is to severely curtail its work because of the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Its plans include the closure of operations in 18 countries at the potential cost of 1,450 jobs.
The organisation, which currently operates in 66 countries and whose global work is coordinated via 20 affiliate offices around the world, said in a statement that it has had to accelerate changes as a result of the pandemic.
Countries it will be exiting include Afghanistan, Egypt, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania. It said the changes will affect around 1,450 out of nearly 5,000 programme staff.
Following the changes, it will retain a physical presence in 48 countries, six of which it will explore as new independent affiliate members, including Indonesia and Kenya.
The organisation had started a 10-year strategic review in late 2018 in the wake of a sex scandal in Haiti that caused a global outcry and prompted many donors to withdraw their support, particularly in the UK, where it started operations in 1942.
Many of its charity shops, particularly in western Europe, have had to close, a visible sign of the financial damage caused by the scandal. Haiti is another country in which it will be closing operations.
“We’ve been planning this for some time but we are now accelerating key decisions in light of the effects of the global pandemic,” said Oxfam International’s interim executive director Chema Vera.
Oxfam said the changes will enable it to be more effective in tackling global poverty and inequality and helping people to survive humanitarian crises.
Cabinet to approve indemnity for teachers marking Leaving Cert
Teachers and schools will be indemnified from any legal cases taken over the cancellation of Leaving Cert exams.
The Cabinet will today meet in-corporeally to sign off on plans for the State to cover the cost of any legal action resulting from the decision to introduce predictive grades rather than exams this year.
The Government cancelled the Leaving Cert earlier this month over concerns about holding exams safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
The move prompted fears among teachers that parents and students, who may be unhappy with their grades, will take legal action if they are unhappy with their results.
Rugby giant Devin Toner uses lockdown to brush up on his cookery skills
What does a rugby player do in lockdown when there are no matches to play?
Well, if you are Devin Toner and you have a huge interest in food, you start re-exploring the canon of Italian dishes you would normally have the night before games.
Toner, the tallest man in rugby, standing at 6ft 11in, would usually have lasagne or another carb-loaded meal on the eve of lining out for Ireland or Leinster, his club for the last 14 years and for whom he has won 240 caps.
Over the last few weeks, the second-row has rediscovered some of the more traditional cooking methods from Italy, including one that involves using milk in lasagne instead of tinned tomatoes.
‘We’re overwhelmed’ – four children left orphaned by coronavirus thank public as fundraiser raises over €200K
FOUR children left orphaned by Covid-19 have been “overwhelmed” by the generosity of strangers who donated to a fundraiser in their aid.
Miguel Plangca, who was originally from the Philippines, passed away from the virus last week, leaving behind his children Mikee (21), Michael (19), John (14) and Chekie (12).
Their mother Gilceria passed away from Cancer in 2015. Mikee shared the story of the family’s heartbreak with Independent.ie on Tuesday and since then a GofundMe page set up to support her and her siblings has raised over €200,000.
Fraudsters pose as nurses on dating sites as coronavirus scams soar in the UK
Reports Henry Vaughan, PA
Fraudsters are posing as nurses on dating sites as they seek to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK director general Lynn Owens said online shopping fraud is up 46pc since the lockdown, “making it one of the biggest growth areas in crime”, with Covid-19 now linked to around 3pc of all scams reported.
Criminals are playing on people’s fears, offering fake or non-existent items for sale, including game consoles, personal protective equipment (PPE), medicines, hand sanitiser, and even puppies, she told reporters on Thursday.
“We’ve even seen reports of a dating fraud where people are pretending to be… a nurse in a hospital and say, ‘I need money to help me to get to work’, and abuse people that way,” she said.
Investigators also fear organised crime gangs could try to exploit the Government’s financial stimulus package.
The NCA is working with the Cabinet Office, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC to identify fraudulent claims being made.
Ms Owens said production of cocaine in South America and heroin in Asia has continued “almost unaffected” by Covid-19, but restriction of movement rules has allowed the agency to intercept large batches.
The NCA was involved in the seizure of some 25 tonnes of Class A drugs around the world last month, including two tonnes of cocaine off the coast of Panama, another four tonnes off the coast of Spain and Portugal, and hundreds of kilos of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ms Owens said: “Restrictions have meant fewer opportunities for criminals to move drugs in smaller, more discreet amounts, especially through passenger traffic, which in turn means they’ve had to take more risks and move more drugs in bulk.
“Criminals may believe that authorities are distracted, particularly at ports, and think there is an opportunity to import larger quantities. We have shown this is far from the truth.”
Martin criticises ‘foolish’ reopening decisions that ‘make no sense’
Reports Political Correspondent Cormac McQuinn
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said it’s “foolish” that hardware stores have been allowed reopen but homeware shops have to stay closed as coronavirus restrictions were eased this week.
He said reopening measures have to “make sense” and also that there should be “more nuance” suggesting people who live more than 5km from their local golf course should be allowed travel there for a game.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the transmission of coronavirus has effectively been suppressed in the community.
He said this week’s easing of restrictions has seen people return to work and shops reopen.
Mr Varadkar said there has been “broad compliance” with the new rules.
Mr Martin pointed to Department of Health research showing that 85pc of people are willing to wear face covering where recommended and said that he doesn’t believe that complacency has to be feared.
But he said: “Rather, we have to have clarity in what is proposed so that measures make sense and are credible.”
He warned that it’s “uncertainty and inconsistency which causes trouble.”
Mr Martin highlighted the rules on which retailers could open this week saying: “The division between, which shops are allowed to open, and those which must remain closed, simply makes no sense.”
“And in some cases it’s damaging the credibility of the overall restrictions.”
He argued: “The distinction between hardware stores and homeware stores in my view is foolish.
“And there’s now no doubt whatsoever that stores which are allowed to open are actively trying to fill the gaps created by keeping other types of stores closed. “From a competition perspective, there has been a clear unfairness there.”
He also raised concern that the 5km limit on travel for exercise is “simply concentrating movement into a limited number of locations, the exact opposite of what we should want.”
Mr Martin said it makes it harder to sustain social distancing in areas with a higher population density” and doesn’t appear to be part of the restrictions being used by other countries which are a similar stage in their response efforts.
Mr Martin added: “I don’t play golf, but if you’re saying you can play golf on the one hand, but then you can’t really play golf if your golf course is six kilometres away I think that’s the kind of stuff we just need to refine maybe to be more nuanced in how we do things.”
He said there should be consultation with every sector on reopening as they may propose solutions that haven’t occurred to officials.
Businesses warned not to reopen unless ‘allowed to do so’ under Covid roadmap
THE Government has warned businesses that they should not reopen unless they are “allowed to do so” under the roadmap as they risk undermining progress being made to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Department of the Taoiseach senior official Liz Canavan said there are concerns that businesses “which are not aligned with the roadmap” are reopening earlier than set out in the Government’s roadmap document.
“We understand the temptation to do so for retailers and for customers. But we have to be really clear: even if you’re applying the return to work safety protocol you cannot open unless you’re specifically allowed to do so under the roadmap,” Ms Canavan told a briefing on Thursday.
Along with essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies a limited number of retail outlets are designated as being able to reopen under phase one of the roadmap which came into effect on Monday. These include garden centres, hardware stores, IT and electrical shops, mobile phone shops, and car and bike mechanics.
‘Bonkers’ – TD critical of health advice that people should be in the same room as each other for more than two hours
Public health advice insisting people should not spend more than two hours in the same room as each other has been branded ‘bonkers’.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said the advice, which has limited the length of time Oireachtas Committees can sit, is creating a “George Orwell situation” where “some are more equal than others”.
“If it applies in here, it applies in the courts, it applies with the pharmacists, with the shops, with the meat factories, with the gardai and for everyone else,” Mr Kelly said.
The Labour leader’s intervention came after it was suggested courts could only sit for two hours a day in line with advice the Houses of the Oireachtas received from the HSE on committee hearings.
The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response had been told witnesses should not be in the chamber for longer than two hours at a time over fears about the virus being spread among those in attendance.
WATCH: Heathrow Airport trials new thermal screening measures
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said he backs the idea of “air bridges” between countries with low levels of infection, to provide a fillip to the beleaguered tourism sector.
It comes as the airport begina trialling new thermal screening measures to detect elevated temperatures of arriving passengers, which Mr Holland-Kaye said “could be part of a future common international standard to get people flying again”.
Clampdown coming on people who won’t work in order to keep seeking pandemic payments – Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that there will be a clampdown on people who are asked to return to work but refuse in order to keep receiving the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).
Speaking on this morning’s Newstalk Breakfast programme, he said that if a person is offered their job back after the pandemic but refuse to take it, they will lose eligibility.
“If somebody is offered their job back and they refuse to take their job back, they lose eligibility for the payment,” he said.
“We will need to do a bit of enforcement around that but before we start to do any of these things, we wanted to make sure that people could actually [live].”
Over €1bn in wage subsidy scheme payments made so far
This morning’s briefing from spokesperson at the department of taoiseach Liz Canavan at government buildings:
- ‘Slow and steady will win the race’
- ‘Do your exercise and go’ in areas which may be busy, such as beaches
- Business: those reopening with safety protocols in place but not listed in phase one in the roadmap, ‘are not respecting the spirit’ of the map and are ‘slowing down progress’
- 473,500 employees have received at least one payment under Wage Subsidy Scheme
- €1bn 48m worth of payments have been made so far
- Flu vaccine: available free of charge to over 70s each year – it will now be available to children and at-risk groups for this year’s flu season
- Passport services: emergency passports are still being processed for those abroad and in Ireland
- Compliance: since April 8, new Covid regulation had to be invoked by Gardaí 241 times. An Garda Siochana is reporting high levels of compliance from the public
- Funding of €1.4m allocated to support Tidy Towns, despite this year’s competition being cancelled, will remain with the group
Full court sittings to resume ‘as soon as’ tomorrow
The Courts Service has confirmed that “full” court sittings may resume “as soon as tomorrow”.
Detailed advice was issued to the Service Presidents earlier this morning on the lengths of court sittings after public health advisors stated that meetings should not go on for longer than two hours.
The Courts Service was seeking “urgent advice” yesterday regarding this advice and it issued the following statement this morning:
“The Courts Service has received detailed advice earlier this morning on the question of the length of sittings. On the basis of that advice the Presidents are very hopeful that full sittings will be able to resume as soon as tomorrow, once certain additional procedures have been put in place. A further update will be issued in the near future.”
China bans hunting, breeding and human consumption of wild animals for five years
The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated, has issued a total ban on the hunting, breeding and human consumption of wild animals.
The move is in an apparent response to research showing the virus most likely originated among bats and was transmitted to people via an intermediary wild species sold for food at a market in the city.
The regulation seeks to carry out measures passed at the national level covering protected land animals as well as sea life, promising financial relief to help dealers move into other lines of business.
However, it contains numerous exceptions, including for animals used for traditional Chinese medicine, as long as they are not consumed as food for humans. That left it unclear whether the ban would cover pangolins, small mammals whose scales are used for traditional Chinese medicine but which are thought to have been the intermediary carrier of the virus.
The regulation will be enforced immediately and will be in effect for five years.
Contact-tracing app given boost by delivery of tech from Apple and Google
Apple and Google have delivered their contact-tracing technology to health authorities in 22 countries today, saying that they have provided the system to those who “have requested access”.
A spokeswoman for the HSE declined to say whether Ireland has yet requested access to the interface. However, she said that the Irish app, which is based on the Apple-Google technology, will not be available to the public by the end of May. Instead, it is “on track” for the “completion” of its development at that time, with a “large scale field test” to follow before release.
She said that the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) For the app “will be made available in parallel with the field test and this will be followed by full launch of the app, subject to the necessary approvals from NPHET, HSE and Government”.
She did not say when the app expected to launch.
Taoiseach on reopening schools in September: ‘there is no ‘no risk’ option’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that there is no “no risk option” when it comes to reopening schools in September.
The Fine Gael leader added on Newstalk’s Breakfast this morning that if the virus remains under control and “all things remain equal”, schools will reopen in September.
“There is the risk of the virus coming back again and spreading again,” he said.
“It’s not intended that schools will open until September but we are looking at how we’re going to do that now and it does require a bit of planning.
Irish consultant teams up with dressmaker and sail manufacturer to produce quality PPE for frontline workers
Ralph Riegel reports
AN IRISH consultant has teamed up with an acclaimed dressmaker and a sail manufacturer to create hard-wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) which can be reused by frontline healthcare staff.
It is hoped that the Irish product can now drastically reduce the country’s dependence on PPE imports and long supply chains.
University Hospital Waterford (UHW) consultant ophthalmic surgeon Gareth Higgins worked with Waterford dressmaker Colette McGrath and renowned sail manufacturer Richard Marshall to create the hard-wearing PPE gown which meets all criteria required for frontline healthcare staff.
Mr Higgins, who also teaches medical students, said the high-quality gowns were produced thanks to a perfect coming together of skill sets in Waterford.
“Initially I asked them to make a batch – Richard Marshall had a machine that he could cut panels for Colette McGrath, so they made a
batch of 100,” he told WLRFM.
“They were so ideal – they are light, they are much more robust than the paper gowns that we have and they feel very protective, so once I had them, I realised that this is absolutely ideal and they can be re-washed.”
“The (UHW) management were very much behind me and very interested so we managed to get an initial batch of 3,000 made up for the hospital.”
Critically, the new gown design not only offers perfect protection for healthcare staff but also lessons Ireland’s dependence on imports and, potentially, can offer a local job creation boost.
Their gown is comfortable and offers the reassurance of being much tougher wearing than light disposable gowns.
The concept of reusable, high-quality medical gowns is nothing new.
Reusable gowns which were sterilised in a long, hot wash cycle were once the bedrock of some hospital services.
However, they were replaced over the years with disposable gowns.
“I think that long term, for everything, we are going to have to re-examine these really long supply chains, even if it is more expensive, if it can be produced locally, it can be scaled up,” Mr Higgins said.
“From a security health point of view I think it is a better idea to have re-usable kit and also have short supply lines.”
“The quality of the gown produced by Colette and Richard made it very easy to see that this was the way to go, especially in terms of some of the quality of the gowns that have come in from China had been a bit mixed, in terms of sizes and the quality of the materials.”
“At least we knew we had the guaranteed quality local product and also re-usability means that it’s just a question of how quickly you can launder them and get them back on the floor.”
Charity calls for limits on funerals to be relaxed
A charity has asked the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to ease funeral restrictions.
The call comes after a survey showed almost one in 10 believes being with extended family and friends is a key part of the grieving process.
However, this may not be possible, with strict funeral restrictions and family members being unable to physically attend the funeral of a loved one amid the lockdown.
A survey conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes for the Irish Hospice Foundation found 68pc think the pandemic has made society rethink the way it deals with death and bereavement.
WATCH: Trump accuses China of fake Covid-19 toll
US President Donald Trump has again accused China of lying about its Covid-19 toll.
Mr Trump said he “saw more problem on television than they were reporting just by looking at a picture”.
Number of cases worlwide reaches 5m
The number of coronavirus cases across the globe has hit the 5m mark, according to a tally from the John Hopkins University.
The United States remains with the highest number at cases, with 1,551,853. Russia is second with 308,705 confirmed cases, while Brazil has seen 291,579 cases.
A total of 249,619 cases have been recorded in the United Kingdom and 232,555 in Spain.
A total of over 327,000 people have sadly passed away from the virus worldwide.
Rural residents forced to fight rampant virus alone after doctors sent to cities
When a group of villagers in the Ecuadorian fishing community of El Real came down with coughs and fevers in early April, nobody was sure if they had the coronavirus – and no health workers were available to diagnose or treat them.
Their local doctor, like many of rural Ecuador’s health workers, had been transferred to the country’s biggest city, Guayaquil.
There, the Covid-19 pandemic had overwhelmed hospitals and left authorities struggling to collect bodies.
The villagers say they were only able to provide traditional remedies such as lemon and eucalyptus to the ill, 11 of whom died of what residents believe was the coronavirus.
Employers warned to limit staff meetings to two hours
Employers have been warned they should limit gatherings of staff or meetings in a room to no more than two hours to minimise the risk of workers having to stay at home if one of them tests positive for the coronavirus.
It may mean colleagues who were in the same room as the person who tests positive will have to remain out of work for two weeks as a precaution.
The advice was clarified yesterday by Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, who said this will become more relevant as more people return to work.
The rule applies to workers in a “closed space” like an office who are together for more than two hours if one of them is found to be diagnosed with the virus.
Public will be asked to give blood samples for antibody screening
Members of the public are to be asked to provide blood samples from next month for a test which can tell them if they have had the coronavirus.
The screening for antibodies – which people who have recovered from the virus build up – is to be carried out at random to give the first indication what the rate of infection is in the population.
Although the number of confirmed cases of the virus stands at 24,315, the real number who have been infected is likely to run into hundreds of thousands, with some scientists believing around 6pc of the population may have had the virus so far.
Antibodies may provide immunity from re-infection, although the extent and duration of this is still unclear.
Source: Irish News