There has been a “clear fall-off” in the levels of Covid compliance reported in recent weeks, a briefing of public health officials has heard.
Independent research carried out by the ESRI’s behaviour research unit has tracked self-reported compliance with public health restrictions.
Professor Pete Lunn, head of the unit, told a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing that there had been a recent drop in compliance, although the “large majority” are continuing to follow public health guidelines “in most aspects of their lives”.
“The average number of people that each individual met from another household, the number of social visits to homes, and the likelihood that people had close contacts, all of which had been increasing during February and March, did not increase further over the Easter period,” Prof Lunn said.
Prof Lunn also said the research had found that intention to take a Covid-19 vaccine remained very high, “despite news stories surrounding a very low risk of blood clots associated with some vaccines.”
“Over 80 per cent say they will take the vaccine when offered it, with most of the remainder saying they are still unsure,” he said.
Chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said the research conducted by the ERSI had informed Nphet’s decision to recommend that Covid-19 restrictions be eased in May and June.
However, Dr Holohan highlighted “concerning” levels of compliance with public health restrictions in Donegal.
Donegal has an “extremely concerning” incidence rate of 295 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population, while the national incidence rate is 125 per 100,000, he said.
Asked why Donegal was experiencing higher transmission rates than the rest of the State, Dr Holohan referenced compliance.
Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said there was “non-compliance with basic measures,” including reports of birthday parties, social events linked to funerals and wakes, and older secondary school children meeting up outside of school.
“We are calling on community leaders in areas such as Donegal, where the virus is still circulating at dangerous levels, to encourage the people there to stick with the public health measures,” Dr Holohan said.
Four further deaths and 545 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by Nphet on Friday afternoon.
Case numbers are “at best stable and perhaps increasing” ahead of an “ambitious” easing of restrictions, the public health officials said.
Future case numbers will be determined by how effective vaccines are at interrupting onward transmission of the virus, and also on what each individual chooses to do and how careful they are, the briefing heard.