Repeatedly flouting social-distancing guidance would make a second wave of coronavirus “inevitable”, Ireland’s acting chief medical officer said.
Dr Ronan Glynn expressed concern at gatherings of drinkers outside pubs in Dublin city centre over the weekend.
He said Ireland was at a crossroads in its battle with the disease.
If gatherings like that continue to happen it is inevitable that we will run into problems in the weeks and months to comeDr Ronan Glynn
“If it does not happen on a repeated basis hopefully we will be okay,” he said.
“If gatherings like that continue to happen it is inevitable that we will run into problems in the weeks and months to come.”
He added: “If we go back to what was our normal pre-Covid we will run into trouble again.”
Four new positive cases of Covid-19, but no more deaths have been recorded, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.
Dr Glynn said the sick and vulnerable will be most at risk if there is a second wave of infection.
He said: “We are at a crossroads and have choices to make. If we make the right choices we can hope to keep this disease under control.
“If we make the wrong choices and do not keep following the basics of public health advice we will end up back where we were weeks and months ago and none of us want to be back there.”
Research conducted on behalf of Ireland’s Department of Health shows a higher level of overall worry among the population and a continued increase in the proportion anticipating a second wave.
Almost three quarters (74%) think that there will be a second wave – up 20% in the past month.
Some 41% believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and one in three (32%) feel it lies ahead.
Dr Glynn said: “We have come through a very difficult phase for the country, the vast majority of people in the country have followed the public health advice.
“Very punitive measures were put in place for people and it has been difficult for communities and families. What we are asking people to do now, in relative terms, is more straightforward.”
He added: “We want them to protect themselves.”
He said healthcare staff were exhausted and not ready for any new wave of infection and added children needed to go back to school in September.
Between mid-May to the end of June, 35% of those identified as a close contact of a confirmed case did not take up the offer of a test.
Dr Glynn said: “Every case has the potential to turn into a cluster, which in turn has the potential to spread through a community.
“If you are identified as a close contact, please take up the offer of a test without delay.”
He said the international impact of Covid-19 was changing rapidly and it was right that the Government waited until later this month to publish green lists of countries which it was safe to travel to.
“The situation globally could get worse over the next week or two in which case we would have to think again about who is or is not on the list,” he added.
Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan is to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin.
Lord Mayor Hazel Chu proposed the honour at the City Council’s monthly meeting.
Dr Holohan stepped aside to spend time with his family as his wife Emer has been admitted to palliative care for cancer.
The Lord Mayor said: “The position he holds represents all frontline workers and all the work they do.
“He has been a constant presence in our lives during Covid-19 and his calm manner in imparting advice gave reassurance to us all.”
The accolade will be conferred on Dr Holohan at a future date.