Likelihood of people gathering for Christmas looking good, Nphet member says

ireland
Likelihood Of People Gathering For Christmas Looking Good, Nphet Member Says Likelihood Of People Gathering For Christmas Looking Good, Nphet Member Says
However, Dr Henry said the roll-out of quicker Covid-19 testing for places like airports was unlikely to be ready for Christmas.
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By Vivienne Clarke

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry has said that the prospect of people coming together for Christmas is looking good, but Level 5 measures must be continued for five weeks.

The current figures surrounding Covid-19 in Ireland were good, the member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“We want people to come together at Christmas,” Dr Henry said. “We want Christmas to be safe, but we also want January and February to be safe.”

However, he warned “we must see through the measures first” as the figures could change very quickly “if we let up too early."

Dr Henry also said that the roll-out of quicker Covid-19 testing for places like airports was still being evaluated by the HSE and it was unlikely to be ready in time for Christmas.

Airport testing

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There was a wide range of fast testing being developed and they would all have to be examined to ensure they were safe and effective, he said.

Some tests were not as effective when tested in the field: “We are dispassionate about testing these tests. It will take time to do it properly.”

The stabilisation of the number of Covid-19 cases gave cause for hope, he added. Ireland was now among only two countries in Europe (with Finland) where the rate was slowing.

People were behind this change, especially young people, he said. The efforts were beginning to pay off.

Frankly, the figures are changing week to week. If the people let up then that will change

There were still outbreaks in nursing homes, this was of major concern. It was a reminder that once the virus gets into a care setting it was “virulent and vicious” and that was inevitable when there was widespread community transmission, Dr Henry said.

“Frankly, the figures are changing week to week. If the people let up then that will change," he said.

There had been a reduction in testing with a fall off in GP referrals of 30 per cent.

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Over 42,000 contact tracing calls were made in one week, but there was a reduction in such calls because of the fall in the number of positive cases and the fall in the number of contacts for each person.

Dr Henry cautioned that to lift restrictions too early could see figures go up again quickly as had happened in Switzerland.

In the meantime, all hospital services remained safe and open and he urged anyone experiencing cancer symptoms to go immediately to hospital.

“Our services are open. Patients will be kept safe there," he said.

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