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'Too early' Nphet doctor says a drop in daily Covid cases may not result in early lockdown exit

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Parishioners wearing face masks bless themselves at the end of mass (Liam McBurney/PA)

Parishioners wearing face masks bless themselves at the end of mass (Liam McBurney/PA)

Parishioners wearing face masks bless themselves at the end of mass (Liam McBurney/PA)

It is too soon to predict if Ireland will exit lockdown early despite a drop in daily cases, the National Public Health and Emergency Team’s Dr Cillian DeGascun has said.

Dr De Gascun, who is also the Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, has given an update on the immediate impact that Level 5 restrictions have had in Ireland.

In recent days, a decline in the daily number of Covid-19 cases being recorded has been hailed as an encouraging sign that the restrictions are having the desired effect.

The regime will come under review after four weeks but the Nphet expert said that it would be unlikely that the restrictions would have had time to have the optimum effect before the December 1 deadline.

And speaking on RTE Radio One’s This Week programme, Dr De Gascun insisted that the current reduction in coronavirus cases will not guarantee an early exit.

“It’s far too early to see what the success is going to be,” he said.

“From a societal perspective, we want to get this number down as low as possible, because the lower we manage to get it coming into December, the longer the benefit we will get from the interventions that we have put in place.

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking at a media briefing yesterday

“I think it’s really important that although the numbers in recent days have been positive, we still have over 300 people in hospital and in or around 50 people in intensive care.

“And even though the 460 cases yesterday (Saturday) is better than the 1,200 we had a week ago, within those numbers people will end up in hospital, there will be a lag and some people will end up in intensive care and unfortunately some will pass away.

"It’s very important that people continue to stick with the intervention and not to be considering releasing them early at this point.

“The plan at this stage, is that we have a six-week programme to get as low as possible, to ensure that we can suppress the virus and get back to the levels we had during the summer.”

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Dr De Gascun agreed that there was a lot to be enthusiastic about with regards to the current reproductive levels of the virus.

He also commended the fact that the number of new cases announced by health officials each day has also fallen below 1,000 for all of the last seven days.

But Dr De Gascun said that these case numbers were the result of Level 3 restrictions filtering down and that it would take a number of weeks before the benefits of Level 5 become apparent.

“It probably takes 10 –14 days for us to see an impact,” he said.

“What we have seen is that the decline in cases that we are now seeing, probably started as the enhanced Level 3 restrictions.

“We won’t have seen the full impact of Level 5 yet.

“We still are seeing may hundreds of cases a day and if people go back to the middle of summer when we had tens of cases a day, the signs of the growth of the epidemic has increased from that, by a hundred-fold.

“There are positive signs, yes, but it is still too early to think about any early easing of restrictions.”

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