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Concerns Dr Tony Holohan says next six to eight weeks will be crucial in stopping the Delta variant spreading

'We think we're going to see a significant increase in transmission, like what is happening in Scotland and throughout the UK'

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health has issued a warning over the spread of the Delta variant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health has issued a warning over the spread of the Delta variant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health has issued a warning over the spread of the Delta variant (Brian Lawless/PA)

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said the next six to eight weeks will be crucial in stopping the Delta variant spreading throughout the country. 

Speaking to FM 104, Dr Holohan said a combination of vaccines and restrictions are key to curbing the most "infectious variant" yet.

“We think we're going to see a significant increase in transmission, like what is happening in Scotland and throughout the UK in recent weeks,” he said.

“In Scotland they had a day last week where there were over 4,200 cases reported in one day. About 6-8 weeks ago they had less cases in a given day than we did.

“So, they got to that place very, very quickly and we think something similar could happen here. And while we're seeing a change in the numbers, it hasn't gone up as dramatically as that.

“At this point we're seeing nevertheless a concerning increase in the numbers of cases reporting each day, our so-called five-day moving average of cases that's been going up for the last about a fortnight or so.

“And then we've seen in the last number of days a small, but it's worrying from our point of view, increase in the number of people being hospitalised so we’re watching that really, really closely.”

Dr Holohan added: “The best thing for us to do is operate on the presumption that this is what's going to happen, that we're going to follow the path of Scotland, and have our various measures that we have put in place and directed at trying to prevent that and as much as we can.

“We're not going to stop it from happening,” he warned, “we're not going to stop a surge happening at all. What we really want to try and do is minimize its impact as much as we can.

Dr Holohan also insisted the restrictions must remain in place while more people are vaccinated to hold back the virus.

“It's unfortunate that we find ourselves now with this Delta variant because we know that if that hadn't happened we would have had a normal, in relative terms, summer. The reality of the disease has thrown up another challenge for us.”

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And he believes the younger people have borne a huge burden in the lockdown.

“People in that age group have had to suffer almost every burden that the restrictions had to offer, so whether it's college, or school, or work, they’ve not been able to go out and do the things that people of that age want to be doing.

“It seems almost incredibly unfair that almost everything that you do as a person say, from 16 to 35, and everything that involves, enjoying all aspects of your life, have been impacted by their restrictions.

“And not only that, but the disease, for the most part for that age group, has been a mild disease, so they are at less risk and in a way have had to do more despite this.

Dr Holohan said if we can remain patient, the vaccination program will continue to roll out quickly “even if it feels it's not happening quickly enough”.

“Because the new Delta strain is a more infectious variant and we simply don’t have enough people vaccinated yet to cope with it,” he added. “But if we can suppress the virus, and step up the vaccination programme we will be in a better position.”

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