Chief medical officer Tony Holohan has warned that the Government cannot make people observe restrictions, he said it is up to the public to make changes which will bring about a reduction in transmission of Covid-19.
Dr Holohan told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would be monitoring the situation closely this week and that it was important to see signs of improvement. If that was not the case “if we think it is necessary to give difficult advice, then we will do so".
It was important what each individual did. If people had symptoms they should isolate and get a PCR test, close contacts should restrict activities for five days. It was important that the public trust the medical and expert advice, he said.
Dr Holohan said he agreed with the request that health care staff who were close contacts should continue to work. It was important to protect the healthcare system to ensure that services were available. Most of the staff within the health system had been vaccinated and were younger, he added.
Work from home
The recommendation for the public that if they could they should work from home was important he said to cut down on activity. It also “sends up the signal” to people that the situation was serious.
“This is a preventable respiratory infection.”
It should not be acceptable that there were 125 people in ICU dependent on very intensive support because the health system was so severely impacted. But this was also the situation in other countries like Austria where they had more intensive care beds, but they were still dependent on restrictions.
Dr Holohan said that Nphet had always acknowledged that antigen testing had a role to play, but the problem was that people were not using rapid testing correctly. A survey had revealed that one in five people were using antigen tests each week and that only a third of those who tested positive had gone on to get a PCR test.
Correct use of antigen tests
If people had symptoms they should get a PCR test, he urged. If there was a negative result in an antigen test, it did not mean that a person did not have the disease. The data showed that the public did not understand the advice on the correct use of antigen tests or how to use them properly.
Dr Holohan said he understood the concerns of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) and appealed to parents not to send their children to school if they had symptoms, the responsible thing to do was to keep them at home.
The booster campaign would be rolled out following National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recommendations starting with older people, then those with underlying conditions and eventually on to those who were lower risk. Dr Holohan said he would not be surprised if Niac extended the range of groups to whom the booster should be given.