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alarming figures Ireland has more Covid cases than some countries with ‘very low’ vaccination rates

Social interaction is main cause of high numbers, Nphet expert reveals

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People are being asked to take measures to curb the spread of Covid infection. Photo: Stock image

People are being asked to take measures to curb the spread of Covid infection. Photo: Stock image

People are being asked to take measures to curb the spread of Covid infection. Photo: Stock image

Ireland has more Covid-19 cases per population than some countries with a very low vaccination rates a Nphet member has revealed.

Dr Mary Favier, who is the Covid-19 adviser for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said although booster jabs are already making a difference, social interaction is the main reason why case numbers are so high.

And she told people who are socialising not to visit their elderly relatives.

"It’s not about wagging the finger at any age group, it’s about asking young people if you are out socialising, do not visit your granny for a week afterward,” she said.

“We are at the third-highest ever set of cases in the last week and we are in a position of having more cases in the UK, we are eight in Europe and are behind countries that have very low vaccination rates,” she said on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

“Extending the booster roll-out is making a difference, case numbers are rising in all age groups except the over-85s which is reassuring, but some of that is because they are doing an extreme version of cocooning.

“But boosters are only part of the answer. Waning of immunity is not the biggest issue it’s our social behaviours.

“Try and do less in the next week or two because case numbers are continuing to rise and we haven’t reached the peak yet.”

Dr Favier said everyone should halve their social contacts coming up to the winter period.

She said there is a “sense of foreboding” about winter as GPs and hospitals are beginning to become overwhelmed.

"In general practice, there is a sense of foreboding about winter in terms of the huge surge that is to come and trying to keep services and staff at work,” she said.

“We would ask people to be very patient when they are calling. We know there are delays on the telephone and getting appointments.

“Our hospital services are also starting to cancel elective surgeries, surgeries that have been delayed for the last year and we need to do everything to try and protect those services and also to support our hospital colleagues who are there on the ground and are facing into the second year of this. They need a lot of support.”

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But Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said extending the use of Covid-19 vaccine certificates beyond travel and hospitality is “not on the cards”.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday that he would be “in favour” of using vaccine passes for businesses like hairdressers and gyms.

However, speaking to Newstalk this morning, Mr Donnelly said: “It is not advice I have had and it is not something Government is considering.

“Dr Holohan was asked outright for his opinion – is it the kind of thing he would like to see, is it the kind of thing that would make things safer.

“Of course, it would make things safer. The more the Covid pass is used, the safer it is. It protects the people using the service, it protects the people working in the service.

“But in terms of regulation or Government policy, that is not something we are looking at, at the moment.”

Nphet is due to meet today to discuss whether further measures are needed.

A full work from home policy is due to be discussed, but the Health Minister said this idea is not under consideration by Government.

“I haven’t received any advice to that end and it is not something the Government is actively considering at the moment,” he said.

“I think at the press conference last night, the Nphet team were being asked about a lot of different hypotheticals and they were giving a view generally that given the cases numbers right now, they would prefer people to be opting for the safer option.”

Speaking about antigen testing, Mr Donnelly said he doesn’t believe implementing their use more widely would be more effective than using vaccine certs.

“I think the Covid passes and the vaccine certs are really, really important because the vaccines do provide additional protection against transmission – not as much obviously as we would have hoped but there is still protection.”

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