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World News

Irish capital has not turned a corner in COVID-19 fight - health chief

FILE PHOTO: Social distancing markers in the shape of hearts are painted on the grass in a park as further government restrictions are announced from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Dublin, Ireland, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s chief medical officer said he has not seen anywhere near enough evidence to suggest COVID-19 cases have stabilised sufficiently in Dublin, a bellwether in deciding if nationwide restrictions are strong enough.

Ireland’s government rejected a call by health chiefs last week to enter a second national lockdown and have pinned their hopes on less severe restrictions showing signs of success in the capital city, where they were first imposed.

The government banned indoor restaurant dining and advised against non-essential travel in and out of Dublin on Sept. 18 under the Level 3 constraints that were rolled out across the country last week.

Data on Monday showed that cases in Dublin have been broadly stable for the past week at 178.4 per 100,000 people, just above the national rate of 167.8 and lower than eight of Ireland’s 25 other counties.

“We have seen some impact of the measures, the growth rate in Dublin has dropped, it’s now at least lower than other parts of the country. We saw some stabilisation in the numbers last week but in each of the last three days, we’ve seen case numbers up again,” health chief Tony Holohan told a news conference.

“I don’t think we have anything like the kind of evidence that I would like to have to conclude that the situation in Dublin is sufficiently stable ... I don’t think we can conclude that we have turned a corner.”

Ireland’s health chiefs will meet on Thursday to provide updated advice to government and Holohan said that if the Level 3 measures are to make a difference, his team would like to start seeing some encouraging signs by then.

Across the open border in Northern Ireland, the British-run region’s devolved government will meet on Tuesday to consider new restrictions to slow a far more rapid growth in cases. Curbs there are currently not as strict as in Ireland or many parts of the United Kingdom.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Grant McCool

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