Covid-19 'turning point' but pandemic at 'precarious levels' in some counties says Dr Tony Holohan

NPHET experts also say compliance has fallen away

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

coronavirus covid-19

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health in Ireland

The public has deserved to reach the 'turning point' that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions means according to Ireland's Chief Medical Officer who has nevertheless warned that some parts of Ireland remain in a precarious position on the road to suppression. 

He and other members of the National Public Health Emergency Team also urged the public to remain cautious as the country reopens in a significant way through May and June.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Health said: “The easing of restrictions is a welcome and deserved turning point in our collective efforts to get through this pandemic. It is a step closer towards the shared national goal of suppressing COVID-19 and protecting the vulnerable. 

“However, incidence around the country varies. Some areas are in a more precarious position than others. For example, while the national incidence rate is 125 per 100,000, Donegal currently stands at 295 per 100,000. This is extremely concerning for public health doctors locally.

“We are calling on community leaders in areas such as Donegal, where the virus is still circulating at dangerous levels, to encourage the people there to stick with the public health measures, especially if they are vulnerable or have yet to be vaccinated.

“January was a difficult time for us as a country, but particularly tough for those in Donegal. It is important that we look forward now and work together to reduce incidence nationally, but also in our own locality. Your individual actions for the good of your neighbours and community do matter, and they will make all the difference.” 

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Health said people should continue to protect themselves from infection.

 “We have achieved a huge amount as a country, but this virus still poses a threat and it is important to stay vigilant and not to drop your guard over the coming weeks. This is especially true for those who have yet to be vaccinated or are particularly vulnerable. 

“The important thing to do as society reopens is to continue to risk assess your choices and your environment. Just because something is an option, doesn’t always mean it’s safe. Crowded places and enclosed spaces still carry a risk. If you don’t feel comfortable, or feel a place is too crowded, leave. Encourage your friends and loved ones to continue to follow the basic measures to protect themselves and their families.”

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group directed his message at businesses.

“Business owners, employees and customers have received welcome and much-awaited positive news regarding the restarting of our economy. However, it is extremely important that everyone take this time in anticipation of reopening to review their safety practices and protocols. This is for the benefit of us all, but critically for those who they employ.

“Remember that you have a duty of care to those that work for you, and your patrons and clients. Reopening comes with it the responsibility to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your establishment. 

“We are all looking forward to seeing one another again for a browse, a coffee, or a meal. But we must do so safely, and in new ways, to ensure this virus is kept at bay for the coming months as vaccination levels continue to increase.”

Professor Pete Lunn, Head of the Behavioural Research Unit, ESRI said compliance with public health measures has fallen away but people want to be vaccinated despite concerns about clottingng

“Today’s results from the latest research on people’s behaviour, undertaken independently by the institute’s Behavioural Research Unit show that while the large majority of the population continue to follow the public health guidelines in most aspects of their lives, there has nevertheless been a clear fall-off in the levels of compliance reported in recent weeks.

“However, the average number of people that each individual met from another household, the number of social visits to homes, and the likelihood that people had close contacts, all of which had been increasing during February and March, did not increase further over the Easter period.

“Data also show that despite news stories surrounding a very low risk of blood clots associated with some vaccines, people’s intention to take the vaccine remains very high. Over 80% say they will take the vaccine when offered it, with most of the remainder saying they are still unsure,” he said.