‘Considerable risk’ of another Covid wave if curbs eased too quickly

While numbers fully vaccinated remain low, focus must remain on controlling spread of infection, Nphet warns

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn will advise that levels of social contact   remain largely unchanged over the next six weeks. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn will advise that levels of social contact remain largely unchanged over the next six weeks. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

A high level of Covid-19 infection while the numbers fully vaccinated remains low means there is a “considerable risk” of another wave of the virus if restrictions are eased too quickly, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn is expected to deliver the warning at the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Tuesday where he will also say that modelling has shown that a further wave can be “substantially mitigated” if levels of social contact remains largely unchanged over the next six weeks. 

It comes after the first major easing of Covid-19 restrictions since the Christmas period with the lifting of the 5km travel limit.

No further deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by Nphet on Monday. This leaves at 4,785 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Nphet reported 394 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 241,330 the total number of cases in the Republic.

Mr Glynn’s opening statement to the committee says: “The priority must, for the coming weeks, remain on maintaining control over the disease, until vaccination can offer a widespread population level of protection.”

He says Nphet’s advice to Government continues to recommend a “cautious approach” and any further easing of measures should be gradual and phased.

Nphet and the Government will consider the position again at the beginning of May.

Mr Glynn is also set to tell the committee that “significant steps” have been taken to strengthen measures in relation to international travel.

High-risk countries

Mandatory hotel quarantine has been introduced for passengers coming from high-risk countries and the list has been expanded in recent days.

Mr Glynn’s statement says that “many countries continue to struggle with high levels of infection and there are already a number of variants of this virus that cause us great concern”.

He says: “it is important that we don’t risk the progress we are making nationally, by exposing ourselves to variants that may have serious consequences for our vaccination programme.”

However, he will also tell TDs and Senators that “we have more reasons to be hopeful now than at any other time in the pandemic”, pointing to the vaccination programme, progress in reducing infections, a “dramatic reduction” in deaths and the full return of children to schools.

As of Saturday, 19.3 per cent of the adult population have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 8.1 per cent “including the most vulnerable” are fully protected.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 132 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Offaly has the highest county incidence, followed by Kildare and Dublin. Kilkenny has the lowest incidence.

Meanwhile, the HSE said, as part of its enhanced Covid-19 testing for local communities, two static test centres were now facilitating Covid-19 tests without requiring an advance appointment for those who are symptom-free.

From this Wednesday, the static testing centres in St Loman’s Hospital Campus in Mullingar, Co Westmeath and in the Randal Óg GAA Club in Dunmanway, Co Cork will offer Covid-19 testing to asymptomatic people in these communities.

Dr Una Fallon, HSE director of public health in the midlands said: “Pop-up walk in centres have shown us that there is a demand, particularly from young people, for Covid-19 testing without an appointment... The rates of Covid-19 in Mullingar have increased slightly in recent days. Providing additional testing at this time, makes sense”.