| 13.8°C Dublin

corona latest Reopening the country is ‘on a knife-edge’ as the number of Covid cases on rise again

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan urges public to obey restrictions


Professor Martin Cormican said the vaccine programme, however, has led to slump in cases in care homes

Professor Martin Cormican said the vaccine programme, however, has led to slump in cases in care homes

Professor Martin Cormican said the vaccine programme, however, has led to slump in cases in care homes

The country is back on a knife-edge as a sharp increase in Covid infections raised fears of a cautious exit from lockdown.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who has returned to his post after the death of his wife, said last night while the battle against the pandemic is going in the right direction, the level of virus here is still high.

He said the increase in cases in recent days and a slight rise in Covid-19 admissions to hospital and intensive care “give us reason to be cautious”.

“We need to examine if these are to become more permanent or transitory,” he said.

He also warned the public not to get ahead of the easing of restrictions, saying this could put further progress “at risk”.

Dr Holohan and the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meet next week to decide the speed of the roadmap out of lockdown.

A further 10 deaths – seven from this month – were reported yesterday while daily case numbers rose to 617 yesterday, the highest in three weeks.

There are concerns about another increase in the coming days, more than a week after the full resumption of school and of house-building construction.

More people have returned to the workplace with one in three now working from home compared to one in two in

A jump in cases linked mostly to secondary school pupils and workplace flare-ups, involving up to 70 cases, has been reported with clusters again emerging from social mixing, birthday parties and funerals along with high incidence in Donegal, Offaly, Kildare, Longford and Dublin.

Dr Holohan said the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines and the protection they give already to older people, the medically vulnerable and healthcare workers means that Nphet will have more scope in the advice it gives on easing measures.

“The calculus is changing,” he said. The “population’s risk overall, in respect of this disease has been reduced". However, he pointed out that we are still not at a point where we have got adequate numbers vaccinated to “have impact on the whole path of the disease across the broader population.”

“That will not come until much later.”

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

He warned: “We simply have to keep up high level of practice of sensible and necessary evidence based public health measures as we move to vaccinating as many of the population as possible in the prioritised way that we have set out our vaccination programme.”

Even if the most at-risk were vaccinated “we couldn’t then just let the diseases rip through the rest of the population”, he added.

“We simply shouldn’t ask the population to accept the burden of that infection, and it will be that old truism that that quantity would have a quality of its own.”

He accepted that there is frustration among the general public but the caveat has to be that people do not “get ahead of themselves” relaxing vigilance before public health measures are eased with activities such as “house parties.”

Asked about foreign travel and proposals for an EU form of vaccination passport he said consideration would be given to this but it will come “much later”.

Earlier Prof Philip Nolan, who tracks the virus, said he hoped the “small spike” in cases will be “transient.”

Progress was steady up to Wednesday. Close contacts on average remain around 2.6, he said.

The R number – which measures how many others an infected person passed on the infection to – is at around 0.9 to 1.1 .It is probably very close to 1 which leaves the country vulnerable to an increase, he added.

The overall situation is “volatile and vulnerable” and any rise in social mixing is high risk.

The 14-day incidence was 113 cases per 100,000 population yesterday, which was the lowest for some time. The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has been less than 200 for the past two weeks with around 13 admissions a day.

And the number of seriously ill in hospital has remained relatively static around 50. However, the number needing mechanical ventilation has risen slightly in recent days.

Niac, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, will report early next week on how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine be used here after a link with a very low risk of blood clots.

“The benefits of vaccination in nursing homes and long-term residential care facilities are now very clear with a dramatic drop in the number of residents and staff developing severe disease,” Professor Martin Cormican, the HSE’s lead on infection control, said.

New visitation guidance agreed by Nphet represents another step to support residents in long-term residential care facilities in maintaining relationships with family and friends.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World