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Holohan warning Christmas and New Year could lead to 1,200 Covid cases a day and third lockdown

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned against the danger of Covid spiking again. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned against the danger of Covid spiking again. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned against the danger of Covid spiking again. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

A New Year lockdown may be inevitable as heavy festive socialising looks set to lead to a January surge in Covid-19 cases.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan issued his strongest warning yet about another potential spike in the spread of the virus after Christmas and New Year celebrations which could see a return to heavier restrictions.

He said the chances of a significant January escalation in infections is more likely than unlikely.

Dr Holohan also pointed to “anecdotal” reports that just days after reopening there are overcrowded restaurants and he appealed to people to “walk away” from these risky situations.

“If we are asking ourselves honestly how likely it is that we can avert a significant surge of infection in January its probably less likely than more likely,” he admitted.

It comes after expert forecasts to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that virus case numbers could, at a “conservative level”, reach 300-600 a day by early January.

But Dr Holohan, in a letter to the Government last week, indicated the more probable scenario is 300-450 cases a day by New Year’s Day and a full blown 800 to 1,200 by the second week of next month.

Asked last night about the prospect of a third lockdown he said: ”We don’t want to be in the position where we have to make an assessment and recommend more severe restrictions.”

But he stressed: “If we have to do that, it is what we will do.”

Controlling the spread is reliant on individuals following the restrictive measures that are currently in place, he said, along with an efficient HSE response to quickly leap on outbreaks at an early stage and control them, stopping the virus spreading into the wider community.

However, there appears to be some concern about the strength of the HSE response if virus cases shoot up again.

The Government was also warned about the risks posed by Christmas homecomings by family members coming from abroad as well as people flying out on sun and ski breaks from Ireland over the next few weeks.

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They could potentially be bringing the virus back with them and help to rapidly undermine the lockdown progress that was so hard won here.

Dr Holohan was speaking as another 242 cases of the virus were diagnosed yesterday with no additional deaths.

Research carried out on behalf of the Department of Health highlights how people are now less concerned about the pandemic.

At the same time there is a slight increase in the five day moving average of the virus and a 13pc rise in the seven-day incidence rate.

Some 78pc of people say they are staying at home rather than going out compared to 90pc in April.

Overall these is a strong dip in worry about the pandemic which is leading to a rise in contacts and a stronger chance of passing on the virus.

There has been a fall in the numbers of people believing the worst is yet to come and more are convinced we have now seen the grimmest days of the pandemic.

Asked about the possible imminent arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Holohan said the European Medicines Agency which will decide if it is given the green light for Ireland and other European countries will not meet until the end of December. Our high level task force charged with planning its roll out will report by Friday, he added.


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