The chief medical officer Professor Breda Smyth has urged vulnerable people to wear masks when attending religious services over the Christmas period.
Prof Smyth told RTÉ radio’s News at One that anyone experiencing Covid or flu symptoms should not attend services or congregated settings. The general population should consider taking preventative measures to help others, she added.
There has been a significant increase in Covid cases in the past week with 120 cases hospitalised overnight, 19 of whom are in intensive care. There was also a 75 per cent increase in flu cases with a 35 per cent increase in flu-related hospitalisations.
The majority of patients who were hospitalised with Covid were over 65 or children. There has been a 65 per cent increase in hospitalisations among those aged five years to 14.
Increase in Covid hospitalisations
The increase in the number of cases in hospital with Covid in the last seven days was concerning, said Prof Smyth. She urged everyone who was eligible for either the Covid booster or the flu vaccine to avail of it as soon as possible.
Prof Smyth pointed out that antiviral treatments were also available for those who were deemed at high risk. Anyone over the age of 75 who was fully vaccinated if they were experiencing symptoms should be medically assessed to see if they were eligible for viral treatment.
“It’s important that we use all the tools in the toolbox.”
Everything that could possibly be done was being organised to meet the challenge of the joint threat of Covid and flu this winter, she said as they had seen what had happened in the winter in the southern hemisphere.
Prof Smyth called on people using public transport to wear masks as an act of solidarity – this was a simple measure that could keep people safe, she said.