• Sun. Oct 23rd, 2022

Nphet warns new lockdown may not be sufficient to suppress virus

Jan 1, 2021

Ireland has started the new year with a rapidly deteriorating situation in relation to the coronavirus pandemic even as it looks forward to the full roll-out of a vaccine in 2021.
The Republic entered a full Level 5 lockdown at midnight with the closure of all non-essential retail, the reintroduction of a 5km travel limit, restrictions on household visits and the delayed reopening of schools until at least January 11th.
HSE chief Paul Reid said on Friday the virus was now rampant while HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said it was out of control.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio Ones Morning Ireland Mr Reid said: It is absolutely rampant in the community and we know that for a fact. Everyone is at extreme high risk now at contracting the virus.
The real picture over the last few days is most likely getting close to 3,000 cases a day. That is the extent of the virus we are dealing with.
So when we get to these levels it has a severe impact across a whole set of areas, and the volume beyond what any system can cope with, Mr Reid added.
Mr Henry told the Today with Katie Hannon show on RTÉ Radio One that the virus was out of control and at a conservative estimate 1,200 hospital admissions were expected by mid-January and 2,000 by end of January. On Friday morning at 8am there were 491 confirmed cases in hospitals in the Republic with 42 in intensive care units.
On Thursday the National Public Health Emergency Team reported what Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan described as an alarming escalation in the spread of the virus with a further 1,620 new cases and 12 more deaths.
There have now been 91,772 cases of coronavirus reported in the Republic since the start of the pandemic last March, and 2,237 deaths.
This disease is now widespread in our communities and as a result we are asking everyone to behave as if they are a close contact, he added.
To support the testing system through this surge, we are no longer advising close contacts of confirmed cases to get tested. Testing and tracing is an exercise in containment and we are no longer in a containment phase. However, it is imperative that if you are a close contact of a confirmed case you restrict your movements and contact your GP immediately if you develop symptoms.
On Wednesday, Nphet wrote to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to express concern that even the new Covid-19 restrictions announced on Wednesday, and due to be in place until the end of January, will not be enough to curtail the spread of the virus.
In the letter Dr Holohan said: Nphet reiterates its view that the current set of measures will not be sufficient to interrupt transmission patterns to the extent necessary.
Nphet is recommending that Level 5 restrictions be imposed for a period of six weeks. Nphet advises that this will require, at a minimum, the implementation of and adherence to the full suite of Level 5 measures as set out in the Governments Plan for Living with COVID-19. The Nphet recommends that these measures are put in place as a matter of urgency and remain in place for a period of six weeks.
The level of disease has now exceeded containment and, as such, we are now in a mitigation phase.
The letter goes on to say that Nphet is of the view that the virus is circulating in the community at such a level that it requires strict stay at home measures (with exemptions provided only for those activities and services that are essential in nature) to significantly and comprehensively reduce opportunities for contact and further transmission of the disease.
Nphet believes due to some element of under-reporting as a result of the festive period, and coupled with the potential additional risks posed by the UK and South African variants that there could be a further acceleration in incidence and severity indicators in the coming days.
Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said on Thursday that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in recent days is under-reported by an estimated 4,000 due to delays in recording positive test results on the system over the Christmas period. He said the epidemiological situation has deteriorated rapidly over the past week, and that we are clearly in the midst of the third wave.
He said the reproductive number is at least 1.6 to 1.8, and the daily growth rate is estimated at 7 to 10 per cent, giving a doubling time of seven to 10 days or less.
We project significant further increase in cases and hospitalisations in the coming days before public health measures take effect and are likely to see over 700-1000 people in hospital with Covid-19 early in the New Year, he said at Nphets daily briefing on Thursday.
While it is difficult to face into further restrictions, it is vital that everyone plays their part by following the public health advice to protect those most vulnerable in the population.
Dr Holohan announced that close contacts of a confirmed case will no longer be tested due to increased demand on the testing and tracing service. Close contacts will still be identified and requested to restrict their movements for 14 days.
Its simply about the scale and the volume. We are at a point now where its simply not possible for us to identify every single contact and test every single contact the way we were doing at lower levels of transmission, he said.
Just take the numbers that we have, if were identifying three, four, thousand cases through positive testing a day and each one of those is generating on average now 6.3 contacts. Thats well over 20,000 tests a day being generated as a result of testing contacts.
Dr Holohan acknowledged that this changes makes the accuracy of the daily confirmed figures a challenge.
Professor Karina Butler, Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee said on Thursday the roll out of the Republics vaccination programme is under way with our first priority to focus on residents of nursing homes and front line healthcare staff.
She said once additional vaccines have been authorised, it will be possible to increase the capacity of vaccine availability across the country.
The vaccine is a vital tool in our strategy to protect us against Covid-19 infection and it goes hand in hand with the public health measures on handwashing, social distancing and staying at home. We need to hold firm now and collectively we can bring the virus numbers down swiftly and protect our vital public services.
Mr Donnelly said on Thursday that the HSE had confirmed the plan for next week is now to vaccinate 20,000 people.
This includes nursing homes & healthcare workers in all 7 hospital groups.
This weeks schedule includes vaccinations right through the weekend, he added on Twitter.