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Carlow, Kilkenny & the rest of the country is now under Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions

There are a number of guidelines in place for the next six weeks

Level 5 is now in place nationwide in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.

It comes as the national 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 is now 291 – while Cavan’s is in excess of 1,000.

Carlow’s 14-day incidence rate for Covid-19 has gone above 200, the county had less than five new confirmed cases in the latest figures from NPHET but the 14-day rate has gone up to 204 per 100,000 population.

1,167 confirmed cases have been reported across all 26 counties with three more coronavirus deaths.

Kilkenny had nine new cases confirmed but the county’s 14-day incidence rate has gone down slightly from 167 to 165 per 100,000.

Both counties are in the five best performing in the country as we go into level five lockdown.

The restrictions will be in place for six weeks – with people not allowed to travel five kilometres from their home apart from specific reasons.

All non-essential retail is closed, pubs, restaurants and cafes are takeaway only but schools, creches and construction are staying open.

NUI Galway Epidemiologist, Dr. Akke Vellinga, is questioning the need for such strict lockdown measures.

But infectious disease expert, UCC professor Gerry Killeen’s been arguing for tighter restrictions & a zero-covid approach.

He’s told KCLR that we can get the Covid-19 numbers down saying “We’ve been putting this off and putting this off and putting this off and we’re still talking about it so right at the moment if we just did the things we know how to do already and we did them as well as we did them in the past we would certainly be down to ten cases or less by Christmas, nationally, you know ten cases a day or less by Christmas”.

According to Prof Killeen there are simple ways to achieve this saying “If we change our testing criteria, remove the barriers to testing, decentralise, you know, little pop-up tests in every small town & village in the country, you know, community based swabbing, all these kind of things, serial testing for essential workers, all that kind of stuff, we could be down to a case or two, maybe a few days with zero cases by Christmas and have some optimism, you know, things to get excited about.”

Contact Tracing …

Up to 15,000 people may have been affected by issues with Covid-19 contact tracing over the weekend.

The HSE has asked thousands of people who have tested positive for the disease to carry out their own contact tracing.

The Irish Medical Organisation is fearful that people who didn’t know they were close contacts may have easily spread the virus in the past couple of days, according to the Irish Independent.

It’s also emerged that alerts on the Covid-19 tracker app were delayed on Apple devices, which the HSE was due to a sync issue – but has now been resolved.

Gardai …

Gardaí will introduce more static and rolling checkpoints from today as part of the level 5 restrictions.

Training in the Garda College in Templemore will also stop so recruits can be released to help with frontline duties

The extension of Operation Fanacht will see Gardai continue their policy of policing by consent with enforcement only being used as a last resort.

The release of students and staff from Templemore from November 2nd will also allow up to 260 extra members be drafted in to police checkpoints and provide extra community patrols.

Gardai say that at any one time over the next six weeks they’ll have over two and a half thousand officers on duty.

They’ will also availble for vulnerable people in the community who may need extra assistance during the increased restrictions.

Local Garda Lisa Mullins is asking that we respect the guidelines – and the Gardai who’re trying to enforce them.

Mental Health …

More mental health supports are needed for children and teenagers to deal with Covid-19 lockdowns, according to a study from University of Limerick.

The research was carried out between April 10th and May 22nd.

Lead on the project, Dr Jennifer McMahon, says their findings also show increased levels of worry and unhappiness but reduced levels of restlessness.

Kilkenny based GP Tadhg Crowley says making a plan to make the most of the positives will be a huge help saying “Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or what you can’t have at the moment, lockdown’s taken things away, it’s to try & focus well what can I actually do now, to focus on what positive steps I can do to help myself in the situation rather than focus on what I’ve just lost and there’s nothing you can do about it & I’ve to wait six weeks, to actually focus on, right, to put some active energy into saying well what can I do to help myself in that situation”.

He outlines “There’s three things people need; they need close engagement so how can I best do the social engagement in that via the various technologies, the phones, especially if you’re living alone, second they need cerebral challenge so you need to start saying right I need to read some books, start focusing on something to stimulate the brain doing crosswords, quizzes, just something to keep myself busy in that time and then they also need physical exercise, how can I within a 5km radius, where can I get some exercise”.

Business …

While some businesses are deemed essential, others have had to close their doors for the next six weeks.

Even more though are looking at ways to continue to offer their service and plenty have moved to offer click & collect option.

But not everybody’s online.

Take outlets like Ryan’s Electrical which has been operating on Kilkenny’s High Street for over 80 years.

For the last fifty of those Anne Ryan’s been at the counter socialising with customers & helping out others in a variety of ways.

She’s told KCLR News that she’ll continue to find a way to help noting “Ok we’re going to be off for six weeks but it doesn’t really upset me, I’ll be busy doing little jobs maybe for neighbours & elderly and no, I’m happy and the business will continue”.

Anne adds “If anybody wants to contact me, if they needed something from the shop there’s no problem, I’ll jump into my car, there’ll be no problem in coming in to facilitate anybody, it could be that they want me to fit batteries into their remote control, their little radio so they can listen to KCLR, there’s not a problem, I’m available to anybody from the point of view if they’re stuck for something, I’ll come into the shop”.

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Schools …

71% of teachers don’t believe enough has been done to meet the staffing requirements of schools during the pandemic.

A survey of 1,500 members of the Teacher’s Union of Ireland also shows 23% have an underlying health issue which worries them more during the new restrictions.

TUI President, Martin Marjoram, says more needs to be done to help those teachers.

Domestic Violence …

A domestic violence charity says it saw a 43 percent increase in the number of calls from women in abusive relationships during the last lockdown.

Women’s Aid says it’s preparing for a further surge in contacts during Level 5.

It’s currently receiving an extra 1,000 calls a month on top of normal demand.

Chief Executive, Sarah Benson, is worried about the impact of added restrictions.

Vaccine …

A report is suggesting current Covid-19 vaccine trials aren’t designed to tell us if they’ll save lives.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at those in the most advanced stage.

It highlights that jabs which are declared ‘effective’ don’t currently mean there’s a proven way of keeping people from getting very sick and dying.

Report author Peter Doshi says it’s about scrutinising the questions these trials are trying to answer.

Charities …

Many groups & organisations are lamenting having to close their doors.

The National Council for the Blind (NCBI) alone is set to lose over a million euro to fund its services.

About 5,000 people across Carlow & Kilkenny avail of assistance from the not-for-profit charitable organisation.

But many of them may now be left waiting as Level Five restrictions have seen its fundraising outlets across the country close their doors for the next six weeks.

CEO Chris White has been telling KCLR News this shut-down will have an impact noting “We’ve got to close all of our 114 shops which include our shop in Kilkenny City, our shop in Carlow Town & our shop in Castlecomer, all of which contribute every week and every day to supporting people further, whilst our services are still available, people can use them and if you have sight loss or sight loss issues please contact us it just means bigger waiting lists and less ability to respond to urgent needs because we are underfunded by the State and HSE so our shops are vital in providing us to enable us to give the support that is so vital around the county”.

And where to from here? Mr White’s unsure saying “I’m not quite sure, we’re obviously guided by government guidelines and we will do what we’re supposed to do but every day is a struggle, and if you’re inclined to make cash donations to us that would be much appreciated because without the public support we can’t achieve what we need to achieve for the 54,000 people with sight loss in Ireland of which about 5,000 would be in Carlow Kilkenny”.