The Cabinet is meeting to discuss Ireland’s new medium-term plan for dealing with coronavirus, Living with Covid-19, which will come into effect at midnight on Tuesday.
The Government is expected to escalate the alert level of Dublin above the rest of the State under its new plan.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said any new restrictions in the capital would be “proportionate”.
“We do not want to get back to a point where we are seeing the people in hospital and ICU growing significantly and we can’t afford to let that happen. Steps will be taken but they will be proportionate and it will remain open to Government in the weeks ahead to review the decision again.”
At issue is whether to keep Dublin at the second-most benign level of the five-level plan, Level 2, despite the number of cases increasing twentyfold in the course of a month in the capital, or to raise it to Level 3.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said officials wanted to ensure “trends they see in Dublin which is a rapid increase in the virus do not spread to the rest of the country.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, said that “the road map is about how we suppress the virus, how we move locally, how we move quickly”.
Mr Donnelly said the new measures would come into effect at midnight and they would be about “how we take the lead from public health doctors to do what we know works to stop this virus, to allow people to live their lives and protect the health care system, keep the schools open, protect jobs, protect lives. That’s what today will be all about”.
Mr Donnelly said that the lesson learned from Laois, Offaly and Kildare was that if a community quickly gets behind the public health doctors and their advice that the virus can be suppressed quickly.
The Minister said the road map will be for the next six to nine months.
New official health figures show that Covid-19 infections in Dublin are continuing to rise.
There are have been 95.1 cases of the disease for every 100,000 people in Dublin based on 14-day incidence rates, considerably higher than the next county, Louth, with 66.7 cases per 100,000.
Infection rates in Dublin are on average close to but in some parts of the county almost double the national average.
Overall, the incidence rate nationally stands at 50 cases per 100,000, according to new statistics published by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Tuesday morning.
“The numbers don’t lie unfortunately, cases are up and they are up substantially in Dublin,” said Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien on his way into the Cabinet meeting.
“It was always going to be challenging when the whole capital and the county opened because of the sheer numbers of people and the population and the levels of activity. That is something we have to manage and I am confident we can do that.”
He added that as a Dublin TD, he was encouraging people “to do a little bit more.
Meanwhile, infectious disease expert Professor Sam McConkey has said it is up to all Dubliners to change their behaviour and come up with a different way of living to combat the rise of Covid-19 cases in the capital.
On Monday night, Prof McConkey tweeted that if current levels of infection growth were to continue the city was heading towards 5,000 cases each day by the end of October.
“Sadly, 0.5 to 1 per cent of those may die of it: 25 to 50 people daily, based on our past experiences, and many others will get sick,” he said.
“Every individual, every business, every leader, every organisation needs to cooperate on a voluntary basis,” Prof McConkey told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday. “We are all going to have to behave differently.”
It was all about shrinking one’s social circle and only going out with the people one lived with, he said.
“This is the time for local leadership. Shrink your social circle, stay at home. Stick to people from your own household.”
Another 208 confirmed coronavirus cases were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Monday night, including 108 in Dublin. There were no new deaths.
The number of hospitalised patients has grown from 36 to 60 since the start of the month, while the number in intensive care has increased from six to 11.
Prof McConkey welcomed a return to sport and thought it would be good for children to play out of doors, but the problem was the congregating before and after games. People will have to learn from the experiences of the lockdown earlier this year, he said.