Covid-19: Holohan warns against parties and playdates after 825 new cases

‘We can’t have children and families moving from house to house’ at Halloween

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, Department of Health, pictured at a press conference at the department on Monday evening. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, Department of Health, pictured at a press conference at the department on Monday evening. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

There have been 825 new cases and one further coronavirus-related death confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

The latest figures on Monday evening bring to 43,531 the number of confirmed cases in the State since the pandemic began, while the death toll now stands at 1,827.

Speaking at a press briefing at the Department of Health on Monday evening, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged everybody to act and “break the chains of transmission” of the virus as soon as possible.

With 224 Covid-19 patients in hospital including 32 in intensive care, Dr Holohan said positivity rates of the virus are “rising rapidly” in all counties.

Almost 8,000 cases have been notified over the past 14 days, and there is a 14-day incidence of 168 cases per 100,000, up from 108 at the beginning of the week.

With the number of nursing homes affected by outbreaks increasing to 11 last week from seven the week before, Dr Holohan said there was “no question” but that the further deaths would occur in these settings if community transmission continued to rise.

He was critical of the “creep” of people back to working in offices and appealed to the public to continue to work at home if this was possible.

Now was not the time for house parties, playdates or birthday parties, he said, adding that “social activities” had grown up around some sporting activities.

Some people had “gone that bit too far, met that bit too many people and drunk that bit too much” and this had help transmit the virus.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn was again critical of the way people wore masks, saying there were too many either being worn on the chin or off the nose, or else being constantly taken on and off. Other masks were to be seen “hanging on the car mirror, sticking out of people’s pockets” and in some cases, were shared when people took turns entering a shop.

Asked about Halloween, Dr Holohan said clearly it was not going to be a normal Halloween later this month and “we can’t have children and families moving from house to house” on the night.

Of the latest cases in the Republic, 254 were in Dublin, 147 in Cork, 39 in Cavan, 38 in Donegal, 37 in Kildare and the remaining 310 cases are spread across 20 other counties.

Some 78 per cent of new cases were under 45 years old and the median age was 30.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
448 88

Cross-border infections

The figures come as discussions continue on whether added regional or national restrictions are required to slow the rising Covid-19 case numbers.

Government sources said there had been discussions in Dublin about a rapid move to Level 4 for Border counties in the Republic in a bid to limit cross-border infections.

This follows news on Monday that the North’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride is advocating a lockdown of four to six weeks to halt spiralling infection rates in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland recorded three more deaths and 877 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday as Stormont Executive Ministers met to consider Dr McBride’s recommendation.

The death toll in the North from Covid-19 has now risen to 591, while there have been 21,035 confirmed cases.

In the Republic, Border counties were shown to have had the highest increase per capita in the last fortnight.

In Cavan, the 14-day incident rate per 100,000 population was 385.9. In Donegal, it was 354.9 and in Monaghan it was 330.7. The next highest counties were Clare at 266 and Roscommon at 199.9.

The national average was 167.8 per 100,000, covering the period September 28th to October 11th.

Meanwhile opposition parties were briefed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Dr Holohan on Monday about the unfolding situation around the pandemic.

Dr Holohan cautioned TDs that the figures in relation to Dublin were “not yet conclusive” and that this could cast doubt on the effectiveness of the current Level 3 measures which were in place.

He was also questioned on delays in approving rapid testing kits. Dr Holohan is understood to have told the opposition parties that he had received a paper on antigen testing but wanted to go through it and test its validity.

Furthermore the Taoiseach undertook to consider a proposal from Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall to keep “summer time” and not change the clocks at the end of this month. Ms Shortall told the meeting that this would give more daylight in the evenings and make it easier for people to get out for exercise and sunlight.

The meeting also heard that there was a €25 million “bridging fund” in place should private hospitals be needed again if public hospitals become overwhelmed. A draft agreement with individual hospitals had been finalised and a larger pot of money would be put aside at that point.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett asked health officials if a “Zero Covid” strategy to crush the virus would be put in place. It is understood he was told that eliminating Covid entirely would not be possible given the open border but that cases needed to drop dramatically for testing and tracing to be effective.

Two-month window

Earlier, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro said there was going to be “a lot of sickness and death in Ireland in the next two months” if people were not careful.

He said Ireland should focus on getting everyone to adhere to preventative measures. Dr Nabarro told Newstalk Breakfast that there was a middle path between a complete lockdown and the easing of restrictions. A national lockdown should only be considered when figures were “very bad”.

He also said that he did not like fines for non-compliance to regulations, saying he preferred if people to chose to do the right thing.

Senior Government figures have stressed there were no immediate plans for a short lockdown, known as a “circuit breaker”, despite the deteriorating coronavirus metrics over the weekend.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Sunday urged members of public to change their behaviours so “we can make Level 3 work, protect lives and livelihoods” and stop Covid-19 spreading.

Dr Nabarro said not moving from Level 3 to Level 5 was risky. It would be a month to six weeks before it would be known if that had been the “right pathway”.

Dr Nabarro pointed out that there has been real build up of the virus in other parts of Europe, there was no reason to believe that Ireland was going to escape.

“If you’re going to stay at Level 3 then please do everything to stop the spread of the virus,” he urged.

Building capacity

The HSE’s chief operations officer, Anne O’Connor has said that the health service is building capacity across the system for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 pathways. The aim is for patients to be treated at home, in the community and in hospitals, she said.

Ms O’Connor told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that 700 health care workers were involved in Covid testing and a further 100 on contact tracing. The aim was to shortly get these workers back to their positions, while building capacity for contact tracing, as they would be needed going into the winter to treat patients with Covid and non-Covid illnesses.

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