Cork city is now a “danger area” for coronavirus as cases have increased rapidly in the past two weeks, the Taoiseach said, sparking fears that an urban lockdown may be imminent.
Infection rates have been rising in urban areas, and public health officials are “very concerned” that the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford will have to go into lockdown as universities and institutes of technology reopen, Micheál Martin said.
But Mr Martin stressed that we still have “the opportunity” to avoid tighter restrictions if everyone adheres rigidly to the public health guidelines. He advised people to “reduce congregations, reduce the number of social contacts and wear masks in shops and on public transport.”
Speaking at the announcement of 100 new jobs for homegrown tech firm Workvivo in Cork, the Taoiseach said: “I was speaking to the Chief Medical Officer over the week and in places like Cork city cases have been going up in a straight line in the past two weeks.
"We are flagging that and making it very clear to people that those are danger areas right now. However, Cork is coming from a low base. There is an opportunity to stabilise it. It is in our hands basically.”
He said that the National Public health Emergency Team (Nphet) may advise government to bringing in restrictions in other areas, following the recent lockdowns in Dublin and Donegal.
"They [Nphet] are concerned about urban centres,” he said.
“Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford - particularly as universities and institutes of technology reopen in the coming weeks.
"That is a concern - where you have high density populations the virus can thrive in such situations.
"Nphet may advise in terms of particularly localised restrictions though, to date, it has been on a county by county basis.”
Those restrictions may now shift to localised city lockdowns, leaving the county to operate more freely if infection rates remain lower there.
"The numbers are particularly growing in the cities and urbanised parts of those counties,” Mr Martin said.
"Our objective is to say to people living in these locations - we can avoid having to go to level three. We can keep the numbers down. We can stabilise the numbers if we adhere to the guidance and all of us personally and collectively do things that will prevent the virus from growing.
"Suffice to say right now they are very concerned.”