8 things we learned from NPHET’s recommendation letter to the Government
New Covid restrictions are expected to be announced this evening
Last night Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan gave TDs recommendations from National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in relation to new Covid restrictions.
Today the government held an emergency cabinet meeting to decide, if any, what recommendations they would take on board and implement in the run up to Christmas.
As of today, there are currently 528 patients in hospital with Covid-19, the lowest since November 9th. 110 people are in ICU.
Earlier today Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the government planned to discuss the measures and give the public answers today in a bid to stop speculation lingering all weekend.
It is likely that Taoiseach Micheál Martin will address the nation later today to reveal what lies ahead for the people of Ireland this December.
In his letter to the government, Dr Tony Holohan said that the measures focus on “activities and settings that are likely to have the biggest impact over the coming weeks, while maintaining as much economic and societal activity as possible.”
Here are 8 things we learned about possible new restrictions from NPHET’s latest recommendations to the cabinet.
For Christmas, the general message from NPHET is to limit social contacts, be mindful of vulnerable relatives and continue to practice social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.
“In general, people are advised to limit their contacts throughout this period, keeping celebrations small and taking particular cognisance of protecting those aged 50 years and older and those with underlying conditions who may not yet have received their booster vaccine,” the letter said.
NPHET have proposed a limit on households mixing would see hosts allowed to extend a welcome to people from up to three other households.
As Ireland faced another lockdown by Christmas Eve last year, a similar rule was imposed in 2020 and saw the number of households able to mix with a host-household at two, before it dropped to one other household on December 27th as the country entered Level 5 Lockdown restrictions.
A contentious topic across the board, after reopening in October for the first time in almost 20 months, it has been recommended that all nightclubs must once again close their doors until at least January 9th.
All other indoor venues will have to impose a 50% capacity for events such as plays, pantos and concerts until at least January 9th. They must also be seating only events with masks worn at all times during the performance only to be removed if eating or drinking.
Dr Holohan said there should be strict social distancing rules in place, which includes table service only, meaning festive revellers will not be permitted to dance in bars and pubs.
Recommendations also say that tables at bars and restaurants should seat no more than six people, with multiple table bookings to be scrapped in a bid to prevent mingling between groups. It may also be possible that the midnight curfew is changed to an 11.30pm curfew.
It has been recommended that the use of vaccination passes be extended to high risk venues such as gyms and hotels, with the appropriate exemptions in place.
NPHET have also called for the booster vaccine campaign to be accelerated due to the potential threat of the Omicron variant.
“Ireland remains vulnerable to a further deterioration in the disease profile depending on a number of factors, including levels of social contact in the coming weeks and over the festive period, adherence to basic public health protective measures and levels of immunity across the population, and the potential impact of the recently identified Omicron variant which remains uncertain at present,” Dr Tony Holohan said.
Dr Holohan has warned the government that the deaths per day have been increasing slowly to seven per day, or 200 deaths per month.
“This may rise further, given the very high case counts, though booster vaccination in older age groups may mitigate against this,” he said.
At the moment, the incidence rate of Covid infections is highest among 5 to 11 year olds, while it is relatively stable or reducing in other groups.
The CMO’s letter said that the latest modelling shows that if the new Omicron strain leads to even the smallest reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increases in transmissibility "the risk of a surge of disease is high to very high and any such surge is amplified by increased social contact over Christmas".
He said in the worst case scenario there will be 750 to 1,300 people in hospital with Covid and 200-400 of those will require ICU admittance.
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