Public should focus on trends and messages rather than daily figures - Glynn

Acting CMO says he can understand how the release of daily Covid-19 numbers causes anxiety

 Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer with Covid-19 graphic. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer with Covid-19 graphic. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has told the public to take less notice of the daily Covid-19 figures and focus more on the trends and underlying messages.

Dr Glynn said he could “absolutely understand” how the release of the daily Covid-19 numbers was causing anxiety among some people.

However, he appeared to rule out the suggestion that numbers should be moved from a a daily to a weekly basis.

“We would immediately be accused of not publishing the data,” he told the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefing on Monday evening.

Dr Glynn was responding to suggestions from some doctors that the daily Covid-19 case numbers were causing undue stress to many people and that they it would be better moving them to a weekly basis.

Dr Glynn said the daily Covid-19 announcements were important in getting out the underlying message. The announcements also highlighted clusters in counties, in work settings and among vulnerable groups.

“It does provide us with an important avenue to connect with people and people where we are with this,” he said.

He did, though, acknowledge that the trends were more important than daily case numbers. “I fully accept that it is not helpful to focus on individual case numbers every evening,” he explained.

“I would encourage people to take less notice on that and then focus on the trends and the underlying message we are trying to get across.”

Dr Glynn said NPHET is now looking at providing more contextual information in the daily briefings for the public.

Last week Dr Maitiu O Tuathail, former president of the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) said the daily announcement is “causing huge anxiety” and is “utterly meaningless”.

Dr O Tuathail added no European country makes daily announcements anymore about Covid-19 numbers.

His comments were backed by Labour leader Alan Kelly who said the daily numbers are “irrelevant”

“We need to move to a system whereby we have a comprehensive weekly briefing identifying the weekly trend in the virus which is far more important,” Mr Kelly added.

“People are being bombarded with a lot of information at the moment and this is one way of ensuring that they do not become overwhelmed and stop listening to public health advice.”

Dr Gabrielle Colleran, the vice-president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), also called for the daily Covid-19 announcement to be dropped.

Speaking in a personal capacity, she said the daily numbers are “anxiety-provoking for people”, especially when some days have a lot more numbers than other days.

“People get this brush of fear. What matters is looking at the matter over time. How is this Monday compared to the Monday before?”