Nphet warns Covid-19 restrictions may be reintroduced if situation deteriorates

Five key takeaways from what health officials told Government in latest letter

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan met the three party leaders on Monday night to talk them through the thinking in the National Public Health Emergency Team about the status of the pandemic as well as their recommendations on easing restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan met the three party leaders on Monday night to talk them through the thinking in the National Public Health Emergency Team about the status of the pandemic as well as their recommendations on easing restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The chief medical officer Tony Holohan met the three Coalition party leaders on Monday night to talk them through the thinking in the National Public Health Emergency Team about the status of the pandemic as well as their recommendations on easing restrictions. Here are five key takeaways on what the Government has been told by Dr Holohan and his team.

1. Covid-19 restrictions may be reintroduced if the situation continues to deteriorate

In his letter to Government, Dr Holohan pointed out that based on past experiences, Nphet cannot predict with certainty the future trajectory of the disease and so they cannot fully rule out the reintroduction of restrictions in the future. “We must continue to ensure our response is agile and flexible, with an ability to pivot rapidly and respond to any emerging threat.” He cautioned that the “Nphet cautions that the re-imposition of public health restrictive measures may be warranted” if the existing measures around masks, social distancing and Covid passes do not prove effective.

2. The team believe Covid-19 passes need to be used in a more widespread way, and potentially even for hospital visits

The original Government plan was to phase out the requirement for a Covid-19 vaccination pass for indoor venues from this Friday. This has been put on hold until at least the new year. It is clear Nphet believes it is not being enforced as well as it should be in some venues. Nphet has recommended that the Covid-19 pass be implemented “more widely and robustly than is currently the case, including in hospitality and for indoor events”. Furthermore, subject to “operational feasibility”, they suggested that it be adopted as a requirement for visitation to healthcare settings with a provision for exemptions on compassionate grounds. Nphet has said that the use of masks and the need for social distancing will be necessary until at least next February.

3. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better

Some figures were sent to Government to give them an idea of the trajectory of the disease. In the seven days leading up to October 18th, there were a total of 12,206 cases reported, a 22 per cent increase from the previous week. Under a pessimistic scenario in new modelling, daily case counts are “likely” to increase to a peak of between 2,500 and 3,000 cases per day in November, with about 170,000 additional cases between now and the end of the year. If this happens, we could expect a peak of 800-1,000 people in hospital in late November, of whom 150-200 would require critical care, with about 2,000 new admissions to hospital and more than 300 admissions to ICU between now and the end of the year.

4 The risk of infection is spread across all age groups

Of the 22,204 cases notified in the past two weeks, 64 per cent have occurred in people under 45 years of age; and 13 per cent were aged 65 years and older. The median age of cases (36 years) is approaching the median age of the population (38 years) which the team says indicates that the risk of infection is evenly distributed across the population.

5. The outbreaks are happening across all of society

One of the big questions since the situation took a turn for the worst has been: why is this happening? In his letter to Government, Dr Holohan outlines where recent outbreaks have happened. Referencing the 40th week of the year, the letter says that there were: 13 new nursing home outbreaks, 10 new acute hospital outbreaks, three outbreaks reported in schools, 19 workplace outbreaks, three outbreaks associated with pubs, one with a guesthouse/B&B and one associated with restaurant or cafe settings. There were also 11 extended family outbreaks and 83 private house outbreaks.