Updated 2 hours ago

The chief medical officer is urging people to consider reducing their social interactions by half over the next two weeks in order to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections.

“If you plan to go out two nights a week, you might only go out once. If you plan to take 10 people home for a particular event, you might only have five,” Dr. Tony Holohan told reporters at an NPHET briefing today.

«If we can do that, across the population, we think it could have a significant impact in terms of transmission,» he said.

He warned that as we enter the run-up to Christmas, the virus will have more opportunities to spread through increased «intergenerational socialization» as families gather together.

But he added, «Christmas 2021 will be different from Christmas 2020 because of the vaccination.»

This advice is offered in the context of what Vice President of Medical Marketing Dr. Ronan Glenn said is a «particularly high rate» of Covid-19 in the community at the moment.

He explained that last week was the third highest week in terms of cases since the beginning of the epidemic, with nearly 25,000 cases reported.

This included a «significant increase in infection across nearly all age groups,» but Glenn also noted «one piece of good news» being the «tangible positive benefits of the booster program» that led to a positive change in the course of the virus among the over 80s.

There is «very good data,» Holohan added, that the booster shots work really well and fast.

«Protection is very, very important for all the people who have not yet received a booster dose,» he said. Holohan urged people to come to their appointments to get booster shots when they showed up, especially with winter approaching.

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Number of new cases of Covid-19 in ireland today 2975, With 74 deaths reported in the past week, 551 people are currently hospitalized, and 89 are in the intensive care unit.

Other key points from today’s NPHET briefing

Enhancers and ‘weakened immunity’

In addition to positive data showing the effect of boosters on preventing transmission, Professor Karina Butler of the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NIAC) said people should be aware that vaccines remain powerful in preventing hospitalization even if their ability to prevent infection is reduced.

«I think it’s very important to look at what we mean by diminished protection,» she said.

Because when we talk about protection, we wait after five or six months mostly against infection, not necessarily against severe illness or hospitalization. The decline we’ve seen, and which we’re seeing with regard to infection, doesn’t translate into severe disease.

Antigen testing in schools

On the planned use of antigen testing in schools in Ireland, Holohan said guidance was being worked out to inform schools of how this could happen, but said there would be no «widespread» testing in schools.

Instead, he said, it is conceivable that the measure could be applied as needed for schools that have been dealing with certain numbers of cases.

Compare it with the new approach whereby antigen tests are sent to close contacts of the confirmed case, and similarly near behaviors in a school setting may receive antigen testing in the same way:

The ECDC guidance relates to some epidemiological situations. In other words, if there is concern at a given time about transition in a particular school setting, we want to say what those criteria might be? In this specific setting, individuals may be identified as a close contact and then tested in the same way we provided testing for close contacts in the home environment. So that’s really all we do.

Glenn added:

Ultimately, yes, there will be a limited role for antigen testing. But the underlying message in all of this is that parents in particular should not use antigen testing as a green light test if their children have symptoms, and we have evidence that this is happening in cases across the country. We have kids who go to schools and have had the antigen tested, the antigen test says they don’t have Covid and unfortunately they are sitting in the school environment with Covid.

Re-imposition of «unexpected» restrictions

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By calling on people across the country to reduce their social contacts by half, Holohan acknowledged that «the direct answer is no,» NPHET has yet to see a reduction in the number of contacts it previously advised.

Asked if that was the case, would NPHET consider informing the government that new restrictions should be imposed, he said there was «no expectation» for this at the moment.

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«Limitations if we think they are necessary,» he said, «will always be something we give in to meditation if we think they have a role to play in any way.»

The word «restrictions» is a broad word, if by that you mean the closure of economic and social activities, or the closure of certain sectors or segments of society. Nobody is ruling out things like that anywhere but at the same time nobody is expecting that we will return to this kind of environment.

Vaccination permits for gyms and hairdressers

Although he said new restrictions are not on the table, Holohan said he would prefer Covid certifications as a requirement for entry into environments such as gyms and hairdressers.

Nowadays certifications are required to enter the hospitality field such as bars and restaurants, and he was asked about gyms and hairdressers and he said:

There is nothing stopping organizations as part of a set of responsible actions that require a pass as part of their activities, whatever they may be, to protect their customers, employees, members or whatever.

«Yes, of course we will be in favor, the more we can see a guarantee on the measures that are in place in different places, the better.»

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NPHET is not going anywhere yet

He was reported in August that NPHET It was due to be dissolved in October but this did not prove to be the case.

Today, Holohan said the pandemic is not over yet and that he and his colleagues will continue to work as required.

«I don’t mean that this sounds like a bogus answer, but there was some speculation in the same time period that we would have seen the demise of the virus, which unfortunately has not been proven,» he said. .

Unfortunately, the virus and the pandemic are not over and they haven’t brought us to a point where we can get away with taking those emergency measures and that’s why they continue.

«When we get to a point with respect to this particular pandemic that we think those risks have changed and that’s becoming more and more a part of something we’re dealing with, we look at all of the governance arrangements.»

– With Zozia Whelan reporting

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