| 17.3°C Belfast

Covid-19 reproductive rate has increased slightly, but remains suppressed

Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dail modelling data suggests that the reproductive rate is now between 0.4 and 0.7

Close

Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

Minister for health Simon Harris (Oireachtas TV)

The reproductive rate for Covid-19 has increased slightly for the first time in several weeks, the Health Minister has said.

Simon Harris said the main measuring tools indicated the reproduction number – the number of people an infected person infects – was now between 0.4 and 0.7.

In recent weeks, it has been stable at between 0.5 and 0.6.

Close

(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Mr Harris told the Dail the rate of transmission of the virus has increased slightly.

He said: “I can confirm that our modelling work has shown a slight potential increase in the R rate. It suggests that the R number stands around 0.4 and 0.7. This is a key metric and we need to keep the reproduction number below one.

“While we may have seen a slight increase in the R number, it still remains below one and we are still as a country suppressing the growth of the virus.”

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadakar told the Dail that the Government has made proposals to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to bring forward the easing of some restrictions.

He said: “We have made proposals to the chief medical officer (Tony Holohan) and NPHET about bringing things forward from (phases) four and three and three and two.

“NPHET is considering the proposals and Government will make a decision on that on Friday morning and inform the public of the decision on Friday afternoon.”

Cabinet will meet tomorrow to decide whether it is safe to move to phase two next week.

Mr Harris warned against speeding up the road map too quickly, adding. “After so many weeks of hardship and sacrifice, I am conscious that we have a strong wish to leave this virus behind and move to better times. I’m also conscious of the reality we live in.

“While the progress we have made has allowed us to re-open the country, we must absolutely remain cautious and clear sighted about where we are.

“We have successfully interrupted the transmission of this disease but it has not gone away – it has not be eliminated and it is still here and still with us.”

In other developments on Thursday, Mr Varadkar  said the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended for months, not weeks.

The 350-euro weekly payment was introduced in March and was due to expire in June.

The payment will be extended, but the amount paid to part-time workers will be cut.

He said: “It will be extended for months, not weeks.

“No-one who is working full time before the pandemic will see their unemployment payment cut, it will stay at 350 euro a week for those working full-time before the pandemic hit.

“Some people who were working part-time will see their payment reduced but their weekly payment will still be more that what they were earning on a weekly basis before the pandemic hit.”

He said he hopes non-essential air travel can resume between Ireland and other countries, but it would be weeks away.

Mr Varadkar said: “I hope that as the world returns to a new normality, we will see international air travel resume between air bridges with countries that have suppressed the virus to the similar extent as us.

“With air bridges we can lift travel requirements if people are flying to or from another country where the virus has been successfully suppressed.

“This however is some weeks away and it is far too soon for anyone to book their holiday, but summer is not yet lost.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has accused the Government of “settling into a quite rigid” approach to deciding on changes and steps in the road map.

He also said that some people in communities are breaking restrictions.

“There is simply no doubt that compliance is fraying – and the biggest problem with this is that it is highly divisive,” he told the Dail.

“The majority continue to fully respect the guidelines and the tension between those who ignore the guidelines and those who feel a threat to their health cannot be ignored.

“The spirit of being in this together can only be protected if we get everyone back on the same agenda.

“While we cannot be guided only by practice in other countries – it falls to our Government to explain when the policies we are pursuing differ significantly from those in place in other countries.

“We are currently in the absurd situation where it is easier for an Irish person to plan a holiday in much of Europe than it is to plan one here.”

Ireland’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,659 on Wednesday, after a further three fatalities were announced.

There were 47 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 25,111.

PA