Failures to fully comply with coronavirus rules is frustrating efforts to bring down infection rates in Ireland, the chief medical officer has warned.
Dr Tony Holohan said reductions in infections are not happening fast enough with the virus having taken hold in every part of Ireland.
He said too many people were still not fully adhering to regulations and guidelines.
Dr Holohan said the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in the UK was making it more difficult to suppress the disease.
Do you know what it means to “restrict your movements”? At this critical time, it’s vital that we all understand this public health term.
Please watch this video and RT. @CMOIreland #COVID19 #StayHome #holdfirm
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 4, 2021
Another 60 Covid-19 deaths were confirmed on Saturday, along with 3,231 new cases.
“This virus has taken root in every single part of the country,” said Dr Holohan.
“A significant percentage of the population – in excess of one in 10 in some counties – is currently either a case or a close contact. This is a huge burden of infection.
“When you consider that a significant percentage of our daily cases will directly lead to hospitalisation and mortality, the urgency with which we need to act becomes clear.
“By staying at home, you are protecting our health and social care services as they struggle against the enormous burden of infection that many weeks with thousands of daily cases of Covid-19 represents.
“The improvements in cases is not happening fast enough. Too many people are still not complying as fully as we need with the advice.
“There are early indications that we may be levelling off in terms of improvement, but at far, far too high a level of infection. The UK variant is very likely making our challenge more difficult. Please follow the public health advice. The safest place at the moment is at home. Please stay at home.”
Virologist Dr Cillian De Gascun, who is director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, highlighted the threat posed by the new variant.
“Due to the nature of the mutation found in the UK variant of the virus, it is inevitable that it will become the dominant variant here in Ireland over time,” he said.
“The UK variant has adapted to us: simply put, it is better at moving from person to person when we come into contact.
“So what we must do is reduce its opportunities to spread by cutting out socialising.
“Stay home. Do not visit anyone else’s home. Do not attend illegal gatherings.
“Remember the simple and effective measures from springtime – wash your hands well and often, wear a mask, cough and sneeze into your elbow, keep two metres of space from others, and phone your GP at the very first sign of Covid-19 symptoms.”