»»Min­is­ter slams ‘Corona Chal­lenge’ yobs »»Two more die and 1,564 cases in Ire­land


SI­MON Har­ris told yes­ter­day how a young hooli­gan de­lib­er­ately coughed in his face and ran away laugh­ing.

The Health Min­is­ter con­demned the so-called “Corona Chal­lenge” in which peo­ple are dared to put them­selves or oth­ers at risk of harm.

Mr Har­ris said: “He thought it was funny to cough on me. It’s dis­gust­ing.”

Yes­ter­day two more deaths from Covid-19 took the to­tal to nine, while the num­ber of suf­fer­ers rose 235 to 1,564.

TWO more peo­ple have died of coro­n­avirus in Ire­land, it was re­vealed yes­ter­day.

The Health Department con­firmed the new deaths, along with 235 new cases of the killer virus.

It brings the to­tal num­ber in­fected to 1,564 – a 17% in­crease on Tuesday’s fig­ure of 1,329 and much lower than the 30% day-on-day rise pre­dicted by the Govern­ment last week.

Of the two deaths, one was a fe­male with an un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tion and one male without ex­ist­ing is­sues, both in the east of the coun­try.

There are now 1,773 cases of Covid-19 on the is­land of Ire­land with 209 cases con­firmed in the North.

Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Dr Tony Holo­han said: “We were not in­formed the man had an un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tion, and we would be if he did, so we are tak­ing it as he didn’t. We hope to be able to give fig­ures in re­la­tion to re­cov­ered cases soon to help with real-time re­port­ing.” How­ever, Dr Holo­han said it seemed peo­ple were largely stick­ing to so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines and the drop in the num­ber of con­tacts per case were re­as­sur­ing.

He added: “I don’t think we see any real sign of com­pla­cency, peo­ple are wor­ried. Peo­ple be­came a lit­tle more con­cerned which is

un­der­stand­able. We have seen through our contact trac­ing data a re­duc­tion of 20 per case ap­prox­i­mately two weeks ago and dropping to 10 per case ap­prox­i­mately one week ago and down now to about five con­tacts per case.

“Again, [it is] giv­ing us en­cour­age­ment in terms of com­pli­ance with so­cial dis­tanc­ing we have [had] in place in the last 10 days or so. It’s too early to con­clude if the re­duc­tion of cases has been helped by so­cial dis­tanc­ing but it ap­pears that the mea­sures are be­ing taken on by the pub­lic.

“Our data showed yes­ter­day only 6% of our tests so far re­turned pos­i­tive – so for ev­ery 100 peo­ple we test we are only find­ing six peo­ple with Covid-19.

“In light of this, our case definition changed. Chang­ing case definition is a stan­dard prac­tice in man­ag­ing pan­demics. Ul­ti­mately, we want our 6% de­tected rate to in­crease, we want to find as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble with Covid-19, iso­late them and con­tain the spread.”

Deputy Chief Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer Dr Ronan Glynn added: “We are seek­ing to pri­ori­tise those who are to be tested with a fo­cus in the short-term on those who are vul­ner­a­ble and those who are at the high­est risk of ex­po­sure.”

Mean­while, shock­ing pic­tures show busy town cen­tres in Lim­er­ick and Cork as peo­ple broke so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines.

These peo­ple de­fied the guide­lines set out by the HSE and took enor­mous risks as they flocked to city cen­tres. As the num­ber of con­firmed cases rose, these im­por­tant guide­lines were also be­ing ig­nored at beauty spots through­out the coun­try.

Droves of peo­ple were snapped en­joy­ing beaches as the mer­cury climbed to 16C in parts of the coun­try.

EVER since I was a boy, I’ve loved science fic­tion movies. I just never thought I’d end up liv­ing in one.

That’s what it felt like yes­ter­day morn­ing as I strolled through pretty much empty streets in the vir­tual lock­down state that is now Ire­land.

Sure, it wasn’t quite like the film 28 Days Later where a virus turns hu­mans into flesh-eat­ing zom­bies.

But the eerie quiet, the lack of peo­ple out and about, the shut­tered shops, pubs and book­ies, gave it an un­real feel­ing.

Like some­thing wasn’t right. And it isn’t. Our lit­tle coun­try, like ev­ery other na­tion on earth, is at war.

Not with each other. But war with the deadly coro­n­avirus that has killed 20,000 peo­ple. And that toll is ris­ing.

It was like a New Year’s morn­ing with the de­serted roads. This is the ev­ery­day norm for the fore­see­able.

At least it’s sunny, though. And the birds are singing. For now. They stop in the movies when the virus gets near. They go quiet. Let’s hope they never quit their twit­ter­ing here.

In our cities, towns and vil­lages, busi­ness life has prac­ti­cally come to a shud­der­ing halt. A dead stop.

We’ve gone from record em­ploy­ment to the prospect of los­ing 500,000 jobs in just three weeks.

Af­ter Leo Varad­kar’s lat­est speech, all the­atres, clubs, gyms and leisure cen­tres, hair sa­lons and bar­bers, book­ies and cat­tle marts, casi­nos, bingo halls and li­braries must close.

They joined the list of 7,000 pubs and night­clubs, schools, col­leges and creches, from Done­gal to Cork, al­ready on lock­down.

Mr Varad­kar said: “Peo­ple should stay at home if at all pos­si­ble – this is the best way to slow the virus.”

Now only su­per­mar­kets, banks, newsagents, chemists and fuel sta­tions re­main open. Es­sen­tial shops only. And rightly too.

Out­side the AIB in my vil­lage of Cel­bridge, Co Kil­dare, yes­ter­day, a queue had formed be­fore the 10am open­ing time.

Stand­ing one me­tre apart, ob­serv­ing so­cial dis­tanc­ing, many wore masks.

It’s prob­a­bly the only time bank staff were glad to see peo­ple in bal­a­clavas and gloves.

There were cars on the roads but only a frac­tion of the

usual traf­fic. With schools closed, the streets, roads and rat-runs weren’t choked from 7.30am with mam­mies in pow­er­ful SUV jeeps driv­ing their kids a few hun­dred me­tres to class.

From early morn­ing, de­liv­ery trucks too pulled into Aldi, Tesco, Lidl, Su­pervalu and Cen­tra.

In my lo­cal Day­break, a few hun­gry builders got their jumbo break­fast roll. And then they stood like the rest of us, six feet from one an­other.

Pa­pers were fly­ing out of the shop. The newsagent said: “Peo­ple can’t get enough news, some are buy­ing two or three news­pa­pers and then sit­ting in the sun to read them. It’s a long day at home.” A few fit-look­ing cy­clists ped­alled at speed, no longer two a breast be­cause of so­cial dis­tanc­ing but sin­gle file. Wish they’d do that all the time.

And the chemists, of course, were open. Some op­er­at­ing a one-in, one-out sys­tem. Ev­ery­one leav­ing with their pre­scrip­tions in lit­tle white bags.

And the butch­ers were do­ing a roar­ing trade. Only right to sup­port them. Lo­cal busi­nesses giv­ing two fin­gers to Covid-19. Just a few folk were on the foot­paths, siz­ing up the ap­proach­ing walker, to see if they would go a lit­tle to the left or to the right. Mind that so­cial dis­tance.

The buses were run­ning. And fair play to the driv­ers.

But they were like ghost ships – glid­ing silently non-stop through the towns with no one on­board, the bus shel­ters de­serted. But it was the lit­tle

shut­tered busi­nesses you no­tice most while walk­ing around.

The heart of any lit­tle town, the pub, is gone and with it the craic.

No lad leav­ing his pint on the counter in Ger O’con­nor’s as he nips out to put a bet on in Lad­broke’s around the corner. No lit­tle old ladies chat­ting out­side the hair­dressers af­ter get­ting a dye job ahead of some big do.

Or teenage girls show­ing off their newly-painted nails in the sa­lons.

No bulked-up lads with sports bags strolling chest out into the gym or head­ing for the GAA field. All sports events are can­celled. No teens stand­ing around, some shar­ing a fag, in groups.

Any gath­er­ing of more than four peo­ple in pub­lic is banned.

Any­way, even though the schools are out, the kids are not on holiday.

Far from it. For this is a bat­tle with the coro­n­avirus. A deadly bug. We could be con­ta­gious and a danger to our fel­low hu­man be­ings.

In the gor­geous sun­shine, with the daf­fodils at the edge of parks in full bloom, it was hard to be­lieve such danger was lurk­ing.

But it’s there. So small we can’t see it. Even un­der a mi­cro­scope it’s tiny. But it can and has killed. And sadly it will make more of us sick. And then kill some more.

By evening it’s like there’s a wartime cur­few. Off quickly to our homes be­fore dark, be­fore the virus gets us. But we’re get­ting on with life in lock­down as best we can.

Leo might say we’re not in lock­down – but it’s the next best thing.

And that’s the great Ir­ish spirit. We’ve taken a lot of knocks down the years but we’ve al­ways bounced back.

Like the line from the song by Chum­bawamba “I get knocked down, but I get up again – you’re never go­ing to keep me down”.

Well, we’re down.

But like the bat­tered and bruised old boxer still on his feet the 12th round, we’re still not out.

And the sun is shin­ing. And the birds are still singing. And this real-life science fic­tion movie will have a happy end­ing. Hope­fully.

ANGER Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris

LIM­ER­ICK Peo­ple on city’s O’con­nell Street CORK Shop­pers at English Mar­ket

CHIEF Dr Tony Holo­han

TEST FEAR LE Sa­muel Becket, Dublin DUBLIN Dol­ly­mount Strand yes­ter­day DOL­LY­MOUNT Youths en­joy­ing day out at the beach

LIFE CY­CLE Lone woman in Tem­ple Bar, Dublin

BE­LOW PAR Golf sus­pended

DE­SERTED Mo­tor­way into Cork yes­ter­day ALONE Jog­ger in empty Phoenix Park ISO­LATE Dog walker has road to him­self

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