CMO urges people with Covid symptoms to stay at home over festive season

Cmo Urges People With Covid Symptoms To Stay At Home Over Festive Season
Coronavirus – Thu Oct 15, 2020, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

The chief medical officer has appealed to people to stay at home if they have flu-like symptoms and to return to wearing masks on public transport.

Breda Smyth said that this advice includes not going to a Christmas party or meeting family on Christmas Eve if they have new Covid-like symptoms.


Prof Smyth said she is “very concerned” about a recent rise in coronavirus hospital admission, and has asked people to make a concerted effort over the next four to six weeks to reduce transmission.

She also asked that people get the flu or Covid vaccine if they have not already.

Prof Smyth, who was previously a deputy CMO and then interim CMO, succeeded Dr Tony Holohan in October.



In an interview with the PA news agency, she said she is “very worried” about a recent surge in Covid ahead of increased socialising over the Christmas period.

She said that despite Covid being “very much” in the environment it had plateaued at a certain level up to now.

“However, with the last week in particular, we’ve seen a significant surge in the actual numbers of Covid cases,” she told PA.

“In the last seven days, our Covid cases in hospital have increased by 50%.


“Currently, we have 624 people in hospital with Covid, a week ago that was 430.

“Also, there have been 113 newly confirmed cases in hospital the last 24 hours, and our seven-day average has now increased to 96.

“So every day, on average, there are 96 new Covid hospitalisations. This has increased significantly because our seven-day average was down around 50 or 60 a week or two weeks ago, so that’s quite significant.”

As of Friday, there was an average of 75 Covid hospital admissions a day.


She said that admissions can be avoided by using antiviral treatments such as Paxlovid, if it is administered early and if a person is found to be suitable to take them.

Those who are immunocompromised, those who are not fully vaccinated and aged over 65, and those who are vaccinated and aged over 75 are among those who may be suitable for antiviral treatment.

Prof Smyth continued: “I am concerned because even though we have a certain level of protection within our population because of the success of our vaccination programme, it is still circulating, and we still have vulnerable populations within our community.

“It’s fantastic to see everybody out and about and to see a normal Christmas and to see people having their Christmas parties – and that’s normal. And that’s the way we want our society to be an open, free-moving society.


“That is very important that we realise that Covid is still there, it’s still giving rise to significant illness.”

She said that she was advising people to stay at home if they have symptoms and to return to wearing masks on public transport.

“One thing I think we can improve on is wearing masks on public transport. Currently, the compliance is very low, and I do think that we are actually in the peak of our season, so now is the time to wear them.”

She added that all windows in buses should be opened to increase ventilation.

“I think if people can give a concerted effort over the next four to six weeks to try and protect ourselves from getting sick, protecting our vulnerable loved ones – be it our family or extended family.

“Also (to protect) our health system from actually been able to traverse through this really challenging period, which is always challenging with flu colds circulating as well, we’re seeing RSV colds circulating in high numbers, particularly in our children.

“If people have symptoms, it’s really important to stay home. So stay home from work or school or that party unfortunately, and because the transmission rate is much higher if you are symptomatic.”

The CMO said that this includes staying at home on Christmas Eve if you have a new cough, sore throat, a fever or a runny nose.

“Currently we know that there are three different viruses circulating at the same time: flu, Covid, and RSV. All of these have respiratory symptoms.

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“So all of them are significant illnesses, they can make you quite ill and they are transmissible through the same avenues.

“It’s really important that if people have any of the respiratory symptoms, that is a new onset, that you stay at home until they substantially resolve and that will really help prevent the onward transmission.

“Because we know over Christmas we’re all looking forward to seeing our grandparents and having that family reunion and I don’t want to be the person that actually goes with that new onset and for someone that’s a lot more vulnerable to get quite ill with it. And it’s really at that level.”

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