Ireland in precarious position as third Covid-19 wave could be more deadly, Nphet warns

Government told of concerns that international travel will undermine recent progress

Things are set to change on a practically deserted Henry Street in Dublin city centre  when the national lockdown ends. File photograph: Getty

Things are set to change on a practically deserted Henry Street in Dublin city centre when the national lockdown ends. File photograph: Getty

 

The State’s public health team has warned the Government that Ireland is in a “precarious position” and a looming third wave of Covid-19 could be more deadly than the last one.

The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has written to Government warning that even in optimistic scenarios, the probable level of the virus in January 2021 will “present a real and substantial threat to the ongoing protection of public health and of the most vulnerable, the protection of health and social scare services and the protection of our schools and education system.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) modelled a number of scenarios that would see at least 400 cases a day in January and possibly sooner.

“If we start with higher case numbers in early December, this threshold will be breached sooner.”

The letter was sent on Thursday following a meeting this week of Nphet and ahead of a decision by the Government on Friday evening to move the country from Level 5 coronavirus restrictions next week to Level 3 restrictions with some modifications.

Turn quickly

The team warned Government that “if restrictions are eased now to a similar extent but more rapidly than in the summer, from a higher baseline force of infection, in winter and over the Christmas period a third wave of disease will ensue much more quickly and with greater mortality than the second.”

They said the situation remained “fragile”.

“The Nphet is concerned that the disease trajectory could once again turn quite quickly.”

The Government was also told there is “persistent and delayed incidence in healthcare workers and notifications of healthcare setting outbreaks and the number of confirmed cases in hospital, critical care, and Covid-19 deaths are not decreasing which gives rise to significant concern.”

They also said the incidence in older people remains high.

The team also expressed “considerable concern that international travel over the coming period will undermine the progress achieved by the country in recent weeks.”

As previously reported, the Nphet also recommended against the hospitality sector reopening in December citing the higher risk of such indoor settings.

If cases rise again, the team said that “it will be important to intervene early to bring transmission back under control.”