The chief medical officer has urged the public to follow five simple steps to beat the fourth wave of Covid and avoid the dreaded Christmas lockdown.
Dr Tony Holohan appealed to people to take «small but vital individual and group actions» to reverse rising infection rates – with 4,181 cases of the virus confirmed last night.
Concerns continue to rise about the ability of Ireland’s health system to deal with the surge as 668 patients were fighting the disease in hospital today – 28 more than on Saturday.
The number of intensive care units across the country also rose four to 125.
Today, Dr. Holohan called on people to take action to have a «real impact» on hospital numbers by mid-December, when the increase is expected to peak.
He said: “We can change the course of this disease. Small changes, from all of us, collectively will make a big difference.
Together, we can break the chains of transmission and reduce the incidence of disease. By doing this, we can have a real impact on the number of people who end up seriously ill and in hospital in mid-December.»
He also warned that the situation was having a serious impact on non-Covid care in the health system.
He said: «The current level of Covid-19 in Ireland is having a negative impact on the health of the people of Ireland and is placing an enormous burden on our entire health system, from public health to general practice to our acute hospitals.
We are all, understandably, tired of this pandemic.
“Time and again we have asked the Irish people to carry messages of public health and work for the common good. Time and time again, the vast majority have listened and responded.”
The country’s chief medical officer offered five simple steps to take to help fight the virus.
First, a PCR test should be done if you have cold or flu symptoms – not the antigen test.
He said: «The most important thing you can do if you have symptoms is to isolate yourself immediately and book a PCR test online or call your doctor.
«If you get a PCR test result that didn’t detect Covid-19, you should still be isolated for 48 hours after your symptoms are gone.»
Prioritize your contacts
Second, urge people to prioritize who they meet — but not to avoid all communication completely.
He added: «Remember, we are more likely to contract Covid-19 from someone we know – a friend, a co-worker or a colleague – than a stranger passing in a store or on the bus.
«We are asking everyone to reduce their contacts in any way that makes sense to them.»
Third, Dr. Holohan invited people to meet others outdoors and make sure windows are open when congregating indoors.
He continued, «Try to meet other people outdoors. If you are indoors, keep your distance and avoid poorly ventilated places. Virus particles can accumulate in these spaces, especially if people are screaming, singing or coughing, and this increases your risk of contracting the virus.» Covid-19.
Next, he urged people to wear face masks, both in crowded outdoor and indoor environments.
He added: «People aged 70 and over who are immunocompromised should wear a medical face mask. It is very important to wear face masks correctly – to cover the area from nose to chin.»
Finally, the CMO urged people to make sure they are using the correct test and to understand what the result means.
He explained: “If you have symptoms of Covid-19, you should isolate and book a PCR test online or call your doctor.
“You shouldn’t have an antigen test, a negative antigen test result does not mean you don’t have Covid-19 and you will still need to continue isolation and get a PCR test.
“Unfortunately, our data indicates that the majority of people using antigen tests today are showing symptoms, and the majority of those who get a negative result incorrectly assume that this means they no longer have to isolate themselves or get a PCR test — potentially That puts many other people at risk.
You should only consider using an antigen test if you do not have symptoms of the disease and only as an additional tool, along with all other public health measures, to effectively combat the Covid-19 virus. If this antigen test is positive, you need to isolate yourself and arrange a PCR test.
«If the antigen test is negative, you may still have the virus, and therefore, you must continue to adhere to all other public health measures.»
Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said today that it is still possible for the country to avoid a return to lockdown.
Coveney also appealed to people to follow public health advice, saying: «Further restrictions can be avoided, but we will have to monitor the numbers closely. Future closures are not inevitable, but require a national effort.»
Coveney declined to indicate which specific sectors might bear the brunt of the new restrictions, but promised government support for any industry affected.
The government has faced criticism for refusing to re-establish pandemic unemployment payments for workers after recently introducing new measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Coveney indicated that payment will be on the agenda when ministers meet next week in a cabinet subcommittee, although he did not go into further details.
He also said he «highly expects» the government to act as soon as next Tuesday to make antigen test kits cheaper. Meanwhile, a senior advisor on infectious diseases said data shows children are now just as likely to transmit Covid-19 as adults.
While children were less able to carry previous variants of the virus, this is not the case with the delta variant, said Prof Kleona ni Chelai, a consultant at St James’s Hospital, Dublin.
She told Brendan O’Connor on RTE Radio 1: «There have been a lot of children being tested, a lot of children showing symptoms, and you have to conclude that this is the tip of the iceberg and that there are too many asymptomatic children in the meantime.» .
“With the first waves, with the emergence of the virus, children were not very good at transmitting it.
«But I think with Delta they seem to be just as good at broadcasting as adults, so you have to assume they’re broadcasting in the community.»
Professor Nei Chilig added: «What can we do to reduce risk in schools?
«This is about ventilation, the wearing of masks in primary schools, the vaccination of children – once that is approved.»
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