The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that he would like the country to be in a situation where the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was not needed.
“Alas the disease has taken a turn that we didn’t want it to take,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today show.
Dr Holohan said that as CMO he needed the experts across a range of disciplines to help make a balanced and fair assessment of the situation for him to pass on to the Minister for Health.
This follows a 13 per cent increase in the number of Covid-19 outbreaks last week.
Some 199 were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in the week up to last Saturday, compared to 174 the previous week.
Now 86 patients under intensive critical care with #Covid19. This represents almost 30% of ICU beds. This is likely to increase. None of us want to be that person. We can turn this around with heightened individual and collective awareness over the coming days & weeks. @HSELiveAdvertisement
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) October 21, 2021
There were 34 outbreaks in workplaces, with 19 recorded over the previous seven days with school outbreaks increasing from 3 to 15 over the same period.
Antigen test opposition
When asked about the booster campaign, Dr Holohan said that it was a fair assumption that it would not be extended to the under-40s “any time soon”, but that it would go ahead for vulnerable groups.
There was not any evidence about waning immunity for young people and that included healthcare workers, he said. The issue would remain under review by NIAC.
“Our nearest neighbours the UK are probably the most prolific users of antigen tests, and have the greatest challenge in terms of infection that the Western world has seen,” he added.
Dr Holohan was particularly concerned about cases where parents were using the tests when they had symptomatic children and when there was a negative result they then sent the children to school. Anyone with symptoms should stay at home and get a PCR test, he urged.
There had been a significant change in collective behaviour in recent times and there was now going to have to be a focus on reducing the levels of transmission of the virus in the community.
“The vaccine was continuing to protect people from serious illness and hospitalisation, but it was only one tool and other tools such as public health guidelines on mask wearing, handwashing, social distancing and ventilation were required,” he added.
Anything that could be done to improve compliance should happen, he said. It could take only a slight improvement or shift in collective adherence to ensure a shift in transmission levels.
Identification for Covid certs
Dr Holohan said that while it was not mandatory, the guidance was that people presenting Covid certs should also present identification. If people were not asked for their cert they should not return to that premises.
“That’s not a safe environment. Irish people are not great at complaining. You should be asked for ID and a telephone number,” he said.
The reopening of venues this weekend would mean more social contact, so he called on people to be mindful of their personal behaviour and not to put other people at risk. If they had any symptoms then they should not be going out.
Nobody wanted to go back to the “crude” measures of restrictions, he said.
Even with the high levels of vaccination there were still risks with the high levels of transmission and there was a need to do everything possible to reduce those levels, added Dr Holohan.
When asked if he would invite an unvaccinated person to his home for Christmas dinner, Dr Holohan said that unvaccinated people posed an increased risk of catching and transmitting the virus and the opportunity was still there to be vaccinated.
“It’s important to protect yourself and those you love,” he said.
Dr Holohan also acknowledged that there was “a small number” of cases of the AY.4.2 Covid sub-variant in the country.
“We have the capacity to track those cases, it is not something about which we are raising alarm or concern at this point in time”.