Health officials say coronavirus ‘out of control’ and warn of 2,500 cases a day by end of month

Varadkar says public will demand exit strategy if Level 5 imposed

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned last night that Covid-19 was “not in control” and that the trajectory of the disease was rapidly deteriorating. Video: RTE

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said if Ireland moves to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions people will demand an exit strategy like they have in Germany.

Mr Varadkar told party colleagues yesterday that in order for the State to go to Level 4 or 5, he would need to be convinced it is the right thing to do. He said he did not want to be rushed into making a decision on a Covid-19 lockdown until it was completely necessary to do so.

In Germany, the public receive detailed information on the specific measures that need to be taken to allow the region to go to a lower level.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned last night that Covid-19 was “not in control” and that the trajectory of the disease was rapidly deteriorating.

Public health officials have written to the Government to make further recommendations following a significant increase in infection levels.

Dr Holohan said case numbers had nearly doubled and the number of hospitalised patients was growing faster than the exponential growth models predicted.

The scale of infection at present is now beyond the capacity of any level of resourced contact tracing process, Dr Holohan admitted at the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing.

With widespread community transmission it was no longer possible to “make the links” for a large portion of cases.

With the disease no longer under control, Nphet was recommending measures focused on the whole population.

If existing trends continue, there will be up to 2,500 cases a day by the end of this month, along with 400 people in hospital and up to 110 in ICU, officials are forecasting.

A Government source described the tone from Nphet last night as “pessimistic” and said a decisive approach was needed as new decisions every few days may confuse the issue.

“People want to do the right thing but they need decisive action and very clear communication,” the source said.

Border counties moved into Level 4 overnight until November 10th meaning non-essential retailers must close and non-essential workers must work from home. The rest of the country on Level 3 saw increased restrictions announced on Wednesday with a ban on visitors to homes.

Nphet official Prof Philip Nolan last night said the situation was “really dangerous” with about 10,000 infected individuals currently capable of spreading the disease.

“If we stand back collectively and stop spreading the disease over two weeks, most of them will recover. If we start to shrink this we can get on top of it quicker than we think,” he said.

The number of cases reported by Nphet last night was, for the second day in a row, the highest daily total of new cases recorded throughout the pandemic. An additional 1,205 cases – including 288 in Dublin – brought the total number of cases to 46,429. Three additional deaths were also reported.

The highest number of cases reported by Nphet in a single bulletin was on April 10th, when 1,515 were confirmed, but this included a large backlog from German laboratories.

Meanwhile, the level of enforcement actions taken by the Garda against people for breaching Covid-19 restrictions has plummeted in the last 3½ months, with just 26 cases since June 28th, according to a policing authority report. Gardaí have only taken action six times against people for not wearing face masks where they were mandatory.

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