Holohan urges public to rethink Christmas plans after 970 Covid-19 cases reported

Nphet records 13 further deaths following 110% increase in positive tests over past week

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has warned that 2,000 people per day could be testing positive for Covid-19 by the end of December should current infection trajectories go unchecked. Video: RTÉ

 

The chief medical officer has called on people to rethink their Christmas plans following the “extraordinary growth” in the spread of the Covid-19 virus over the past five days.

Dr Tony Holohan’s warning came as the Government moved to deal with the worsening situation by announcing plans to impose Level 5 restrictions later this week.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) reported 970 new cases of Covid-19 and 13 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday.

A total of 2,171 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported so far this year.

As of 2pm on Tuesday, 238 people with Covid-19 were in hospital including 23 patients who were hospitalised in the past 24 hours, while 28 people were in ICU.

Of the cases reported on Tuesday, 348 were in Dublin, 60 in Limerick, 59 in Cork, 59 in Wexford, 55 in Louth and the remaining 389 cases were spread across 20 other counties.

Co Donegal continues to have the highest 14-day incidence rate in the country at 290.8 per 100,000 people. Some 463 cases have been confirmed in Donegal during the last 14 days including 50 new cases over the past 24 hours.

Co Louth has the second highest incidence rate at 273.1, followed by Co Wexford at 237.8, Co Kilkenny at 236.8 and Co Monaghan at 213.4. The nationwide incidence rate average for Ireland is 138.2 per 100,000.

The rate in Dublin is 162.1 with 2,197 cases confirmed in the capital over the past fortnight.

Dr Holohan warned on Tuesday that the “current trajectory of the disease in the community was of grave concern”, adding that the number of cases had increased by 110 per cent over the past week.

“To protect ourselves, our families and our vulnerable loved ones in particular, further economic and social restrictions will begin to be introduced from Christmas Eve,” said Dr Holohan. “It is up to each one of us to rethink our plans for this Christmas period, especially when it comes to visiting older or more medically vulnerable family members and friends.”

He said widespread vaccination would take time and people needed to continue to adhere to restrictions and public health advice.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the first vaccinations in the Republic would take place on December 30th. About 10,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are due to be available after Christmas.

Under the restrictions announced on Tuesday, restaurants and pubs serving food will close at 3pm on Christmas Eve. Hairdressers and personal services will close from Christmas Eve.

Hotels will be permitted to open for Christmas, after which they will be permitted to provide services to guests only. Schools will also stay open.

Non-essential retail will be permitted to stay open, but shops will be asked not to hold sales. Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will remain open, but only for individual exercise. People will be allowed train outdoors, but only in pods of 15 or fewer. No sports matches can take place apart from those at elite level.

Visits from two households will be allowed until St Stephen’s Day, but that will then be reduced to one household until December 31st, and home visits will be banned completely in the new year.

The restrictions will be reviewed on January 12th but Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned they could be needed for more than two months.

Travel from Britain

On Tuesday, the Government extended the ban on travel from Britain to the Republic until December 31st. It also updated its advice for people who have travelled from Britain to the Republic since December 8th. The new advice calls on people to self-isolate in their room rather than restricting their movements from the date of arrival into Ireland for 14 days.

A test should be arranged through the GP within five days of a person’s arrival in Ireland from Britain and those who have already had a test privately must complete 14 days of self-isolation, regardless of the private test results, said a statement from the HSE.

Any person who receives the result “virus not detected” must continue to self-isolate for a full 14 days as they could still be developing symptoms and pose a potential risk to others, said the HSE.

If a person does develop symptoms after travelling from Britain, they must phone their GP immediately.

The HSE also advised travellers from Britain not to visit a nursing home or long-term residential facility until they had completed their 14 days of self-isolation.

Chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry underlined that the latest advice for travellers from the UK was stricter than the previous “restrict movements” advice that would otherwise apply to people travelling to Ireland.

“I am asking all those who have travelled to please heed this advice and show this meitheal spirit that we have seen throughout the pandemic,” said Dr Henry.