Covid-19: 5,634 new cases reported as Tony Holohan says latest figures ‘concerning’

Vaccinations for primary school children may not begin until New Year, says Taoiseach

“We can change the trajectory of this disease by breaking the chains of transmission,” Tony Hologan said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos

“We can change the trajectory of this disease by breaking the chains of transmission,” Tony Hologan said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney /Collins Photos

 

The Department of Health has reported a further 5,634 Covid-19 cases, a figure described by the State’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan as a “concerning number.”

Setting out the future impact on the health system from the rising number of infections, Dr Holohan said that 20 to 25 people will end up in hospital for every 1,000 coronavirus cases, while between two and three people will require critical care in intensive care units.

Since June, one in four people with Covid-19 who required critical care died, he said.

“This information is not easy to hear but it is an important reminder of the serious risk that Covid-19 continues to pose to all of us,” Dr Holohan said.

The seven-day average of new daily cases - a metric that evens out daily fluctuations in new case numbers - stands at 4,515, up 10 per cent on a week ago.

The number of people in hospital stands at 684, up from 622 a week ago. This includes 126 who are in ICU, compared with 117 a week earlier.

Dr Holohan stressed that the trajectory of the disease can be changed by breaking chains of transmission through adherence to “all the layers of the public health advice.”

Early research has shown that “people are making many additional efforts to drive down incidence of the disease in the community,” he said.

Almost 57 per cent of people are reducing the number of people they plan to meet between now and Christmas, and 45 per cent have cancelled plans, according to research firm Amárach.

Compliance with the digital Covid-19 cert has increased by almost 10 per cent to 85 per cent.

“None of this [IS]easy, particularly at this time of year. However, the data above shows that people are making a concerted effort to reduce their risk,” said Dr Holohan.

“If we can keep this going, it will have a positive impact on disease transmission.”

He encouraged people to follow public health advice, including self-isolating immediately and getting a PCR test, not an antigen test, if they are suffering any cold or flu-like symptoms.

Dr Holohan urged people to prioritise “who you need to meet and meet others outdoors.”

He asked people to open windows when meeting others indoors, avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces, wash their hands regularly and wear a mask.

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Meanwhile Taoiseach Michéal Martin has said the Government is looking at introducing vaccines for primary school children but it may take until the New Year to begin the programme .

Such a move is pending approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

The Taoiseach also said the number of cases of Covid-19 can be reduced without having to go into a lockdown.

Mr Martin said the Government has other options and responses to help tackle rising case numbers.

Mr Martin said he believes pressure on the health service can be reduced, adding that the booster campaign will “have an impact”. “We can reduce the spread of this virus,” he added.

Mr Martin said Dr Holohan and other public health and medicines experts are monitoring what is happening to combat Covid-19 in other countries including in Canada where approval has been granted for giving vaccines to children aged 5-11.

Mr Martin said that US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) had given the go ahead for giving vaccines to young children and the EMA was due to give its decision within the next week or so and Niac would then consider the EMA advice before making its recommendation to government.

Recommendation

“We will have to go to Niac here but I would support the roll out to children in due course once it’s authorised by the relevant authorities who have the clinical expertise to make that recommendation but that’s something we will look at very closely,” he said.

“We have to get the recommendation from the EMA, similar to the FDA and that I believe is due within the next week or two but then there will be a different calibration here because the dosage for children will be much lower than the dosage for adults so that is a difference.

“You are looking at a much lower volume of vaccine for children compared to adults but it’s something on the horizon and on the agenda but again it’s all in the context of the advice we will receive from Niac and the medical experts.”

Asked if he thought that the roll out of vaccines to primary school children could happen before Christmas, Mr Martin said he did not think that was possible given the organisational and logistical challenges it poses even though he was confident companies could meet the demand for vaccines.

“It (giving vaccines to primary school children) is on the horizon and on the agenda and the CMO and others are very conscious of what’s going on in the European level and what’s going on in the United States in terms of FDA approval and the research on the vaccine and children and its efficacy.

“It’s a further step on the road to dealing with this pandemic and we will certainly be ready when those recommendations come,” said Mr Martin speaking at a tree planting ceremony at Terence MacSwiney Community College in Knocknaheeny in Cork to mark College Awareness Week.

He was speaking ahead of the meeting on Monday where Ministers arto consider retaining higher rates of financial supports for businesses , in light of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation.

The Cabinet subcommittee on economics will receive an update on financial supports amid widespread infections across the State and new restrictions being imposed on businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector.

Mr Martin also said that the Government is conscious that the decision to bring in restrictions last week has had an impact on the hospitality sector.

The Fianna Fail leader said the effect of restrictions will be assessed during the meeting of ministers on Monday evening. “The spirit in which we have approached this from the outset in terms of supporting businesses has been one of support, through EWSS (Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme) and other measures, rates relief and so on,” he added.

“That’s the ethos by which we have governed, we have supported enterprises so they could keep workers intact. “It’s the spirit in which we will look at this, this evening. I can’t get into specifics but we will be guided by advice.

“I know ministers for finance and public expenditure, Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath, will talk on this evening.

“I am conscious that decisions last week have resulted in a lot of cancellations in hospitality and that has had impact. So we will assess all of that this evening.

“Within hospitality there has been a lot of feedback, there are shortages in hospitality, so we will do an assessment as to whether hospitality can absorb any staff that may not be fully retained in the night-time economy because of measures we have taken.

“The feedback has been a lot vacancies in the hospitality sector in terms of recruiting staff.

Asked about comments from Dr Holohan on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the evidence suggested the numbers testing positive in the primary school age group fell in September despite schools reopening, Mr Martin said he government was working closely with Nphet on the issue.

Education partners

“We have always worked with the education partners in respect of this pandemic and we will continue to do that and I will talk later with the senior management of the Education Training Board (ETB) to get their assessment of it.

“On the public health front, we have always consistently taken advice from the public health authorities both Nphet and the HSE specifically in relation to education and to schools and we will continue to do that because I don’t think we can deviate from public health advice for schools.

“The balance has always been the absolute importance of children being in school for their development. It was with a very heavy heart that we had to close schools in the earlier phases of the pandemic. That is not good for children and it is not good for young people.”

“That is the overarching priority to enable children to be able to go to school to develop, to enjoy their socialisation with their fellow pupils and for second level that they develop the other programmes such as the syllabus and so on.”

“We are listening – we will engage but the public health advice has been consistent in relation to education and to schools.” Part of the concerns in public health more recently was the RSV virus that children were picking up. That caused more admissions to hospitals of children than Covid-19 did.”

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