"No fault...no blame" for people of Kildare, Laois and Offaly for lockdown
All three counties had restrictions in place in August.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Wednesday evening that the extended lockdown in Kildare was no fault of the residents there, and that the people of Laois, Offaly and Kildare were responsible for turning around a situation that "could have got out of control very significantly".
Regional restrictions were put in place in the three Midland counties on 7 August after a spike in incidences of Covid-19, caused by initial outbreaks in meat-processing plants. These then spread into the community, resulting in a two-week lockdown for Laois and Offaly and over three weeks for Kildare.
In relation to the Covid-19 outbreak in Kildare, Prof Nolan says it happened in two phases - the first in large workplaces, the second in households and families. He says there were a small number of Covid cases due to community transmission | https://t.co/a4FfusB5WJ pic.twitter.com/hffqhbz4GM
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) September 2, 2020
Professor Nolan confirmed this trajectory at a Department of Health briefing on Wednesday evening;
"To complete out the picture, obviously the disease got into the meat factories from the community, amplified in the meat factories but then...it was seeded into households and spread between households by the mechanism that we've talked about earlier."
ACMO Dr Glynn said that the people of Kildare, Laois and Offaly were not in any way to blame for what occurred in these counties;
"We did see a unique situation in Kildare, where we had a significant set of circumstances that led to a very rapid amplification in the number of cases, in a small number of settings that spread out to the wider communities through no fault of the communities. It was just a very unfortunate set of circumstances.
"There is no fault to be attributed, there's no blame to be attributed. And in fact, I would turn it around and say that the situation was turned around in Kildare, and I know it was a very difficult three weeks, but equally a situation that could have got out of control very significantly was controlled and turned around by people in Kildare and Laois and Offaly, through their actions individually."
When questioned by JOE at the briefing whether this was more than an 'unfortunate set of circumstances', as issues around meat-processing plants had been well-flagged prior to these outbreaks, Dr Glynn said that learnings will be taken from what happened in these counties;
"We know that where these clusters happened were quite simply... they're one of the highest-risk environments for this. We've learned a lot from that experience, and as you know there's serial testing now happening in all those facilities (meat-processing plants, Direct Provision centres) around the country, and hopefully we won't see another situation like that emerge in another county for the same set of reasons.
"We will have other challenges in other counties, no doubt.... I do think that where we need to be is that it was a bad situation, through no fault of the people in Kildare, through no fault of the population there", he continued.
"But, despite that, and despite the anger and frustration that I know they felt, despite the very significant impact on businesses, they did row in behind this. That rowing in and that willingness to put the anger and frustration aside and follow the basic measures meant that three weeks later the measures were lifted."
Professor Nolan also pointed out that the cases in meat-processing factories spread incredibly quickly and measures were in place to identify cases;
"I think it's really important to look at the timeline. Yes, we knew that these were high-risk environments and that's why public health were monitoring them so closely. But these infections occurred or were detected in the course of three or four days, so most of the infections had occurred before the first case was detected.
"It's not that these were not monitored or unexpected, even by international standards the rate at which the disease developed and spread in this setting was very, very fast."
Dr Glynn also pointed out that a large number of cases, more than would normally be expected, were also asymptomatic and as a result were not easily identified.
There were 89 new confirmed cases of the virus notified on Wednesday, while a death that occurred in June was also reported.