Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned that there will be a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 deaths this month.
Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Dr Holohan said that the increase in deaths will lag behind the surge in new cases and hospitalisations.
The mortality rate for January will be a “significant multiple” of the rates in November and December.
Dr Holohan said there were early signs of encouragement that people were beginning to reduce their contacts and there was still an opportunity to turn around the current situation.
The high numbers in recent days were because fewer people had come forward to be tested over the Christmas period with more being tested in the subsequent days.
With regard to the reopening of schools Dr Holohan pointed out that Nphet had “never said” that children did not contract Covid-19.
“They do get it, they don’t get it to the same extent as the rest of the population.
“The work that has been done across schools, to maintain the school environment as a safe place, we can see that in the data. We’re now in a situation, and we have expressed concerns about this, these levels of infections in children of school-going age have increased very significantly, even if they are less than the average rate in the population.”
Dr Holohan urged anyone who has cold or flu like symptoms to behave as if they had Covid-19. “We know there isn’t any flu in effect in this population at the moment, or other common respiratory viruses.
“We need to act like it's March again. We would express some optimism that if we get that message across and begin to get these measures in place, we might see a significant decrease happening quite quickly in this infection.”
Dr Holohan rejected efforts to compare Ireland with New Zealand. “Ireland is not an isolated country like New Zealand, more than 1,000 miles away from the next country. They’ve been able to put in place measures in ports there, and haven’t been impacted by infections to quite the same extent as the northern hemisphere.
“We’ve never faced this level of infection. The risk to people in this country now is not from international travel, it’s from other people in this country.”