Dr Holohan says it will be a 'challenge' to suppress virus over Christmas as 306 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed

Eoghan Moloney

Dr Tony Holohan has said it will be “a challenge” to suppress the virus in the coming weeks as Level Five restrictions are eased.

It comes as one further death and 306 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the Department of Health this evening.

This brings the official death toll to 2,053 while the number of total cases in the Republic has risen to 72,544.

Dr Holohan said the stalling of the decrease in cases doesn't mean there has to be exponential growth in December, though, as he urged everyone to accept personal responsibility for their actions over the Christmas period.

There have been 108 new cases in Dublin, 30 in Limerick, 22 in Galway, 17 in Donegal, 15 in Wicklow, 14 in Cork and the remaining 100 cases are spread across 18 other counties.

Of the cases notified today; 156 are men and 148 are women; 67pc are under 45 years of age and the median age is 35 years old.

Dr Ronan Glynn confirms there have been 119 deaths in the month of November, the same as October’s death toll.

As of 2pm today, there are 244 Covid-19 patients hospitalised, of which 31 are in ICU. There have been three additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

The national 14-day incidence rate has fallen to 89.2.

There have been 38 deaths of people with Covid-19 linked to hospital outbreaks in November, Dr Glynn confirms, up from 23 in October.

There are 35 open outbreaks currently in nursing homes, with 908 cases linked to these outbreaks. There have been 38 deaths of death people linked with nursing home outbreaks this month, down from 48 in October.

The positivity rate for tests currently stands at 2.7pc.

Two thirds of deaths associated with Covid-19 in November were linked to either nursing home and hospital outbreaks, Dr Tony Holohan said.

Graphs shown by Dr Holohan illustrate how Ireland did not experience the huge peaks of intensive care admissions and mortality as was experienced across Europe in the second wave. The Chief Medical Officer estimates 35 lives per day were saved in Ireland, due to its performance in comparison to the EU average.

Dr Holohan says Ireland's incidence of coronavirus is "both low and reducing in comparison to other European countries." Ireland has the second-lowest incidence behind Finland within Europe.

Dr Holohan said the increased measures over the last six weeks ensured the provision of non-Covid hospital services that were delayed or postponed in the first wave of the disease.

The CMO reiterates the need for people to accept personal responsibility to protect themselves and others with good basic hygiene and social distancing measures as Level Five restrictions are relaxed from Midnight Monday night. He also points out the new advice to wear face masks in crowded outdoors areas as the busy Christmas season approaches.

Dr Glynn says the key determinant of how the virus' profile unfolds in the coming weeks is down to how people choose to gather in groups, or not.

Mr Holohan says he hopes to see the benefit of Level 5 restrictions continue for the next week or 10 days.

Dr Holohan points out that there are many countries in Europe experiencing far higher levels of the virus and mortality, and that this "should remind us that we can't let go" of the principles that have gotten us this far already.

Mr Holohan is alluding to a section of his letter to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly where he states a third wave would likely bring far higher case numbers and mortality than was experienced in the second wave as we are exiting lockdown from a much higher amount of cases than in the summer.

Today's figures come as Health Minister Stephen Donnelly earlier said the roll out of vaccines for Covid-19 could begin in January.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he will unveil the large-scale logistics plan to distribute the vaccines to the public on December 11.

Ireland is in line to receive four different vaccines against Covid-19, pending authorisation.

It is believed healthcare workers and vulnerable people will be first in line to receive a vaccine when they have been authorised by the European Medicines Agency.

Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health confirmed ten further deaths and 290 new cases of Covid-19.

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