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Unpredictable Severe new Covid-19 restrictions on standby if needed this winter

The Government is reserv­ing the right to trigger a resumption of powers

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Health Act needed to be extended for three months. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Health Act needed to be extended for three months. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, warned that the future trajectory of the virus cannot be predicted with certainty. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, warned that the future trajectory of the virus cannot be predicted with certainty. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Health Act needed to be extended for three months. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The prospect of a return to severe Covid-19 regulations during the winter is not being ruled out, despite confidence that most major restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks.

The Government is reserv­ing the right to trigger a resumption of powers after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said yesterday the Health Act (Amendment) (No 2), which gives him the authority to reimpose restrictions on indoor hospitality, confining entry to the fully-vaccinated or people who recovered from the virus, should be extended for three months beyond tomorrow week.

He said Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that the future trajectory of the virus cannot be predicted with certainty.

“As a result, a response to the disease that is agile and flexible with an ability to pivot rapidly and respond to any new emerging threats needs to be ensured,” he told the Dáil.

It means if there is another dangerous surge of infection leading to a very high level of hospitalisations and deaths, the Government can take radical action.

All the indications are that the plan to scrap most Covid-19 rules by October 22 is on course to proceed.

However, a high level of virus is continuing to circulate, with 1,124 new cases reported yesterday. There were 349 Covid-19 patients in hospital, an increase of 16 from the previous day.

Another person was admitted to intensive care, bringing the number receiving the highest level of care to 65. The five-day case average is 1,143.

But the incidence is rising among some adults and this is linked to the return to the workplace and reopening of colleges.

The adult age group with the highest number of cases in the two weeks to last Sunday were 35 to 44-year-olds.

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the epidemiological modelling advisory group in the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) yesterday predicted a slow and steady decline in cases.

Referring to the October 22 timeline for removing most remaining restrictions he said: “Right now we’re in a good place. We’re actually tracking the most optimistic of the scenarios that we would have presented to Government at the end of August.

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“So, there’s nothing in the numbers that would change the advice that Nphet would have given.”

There is still a high level of infection and it is important anyone with potential symptoms does not go to work or school.

He said the incidence of infection in five to 10-year-olds is lower than this time last year and it is testament to the mitigation measures followed by teachers and parents.

The high levels of vaccination in adults also benefits children because it reduces the amount of virus which is circulating, he told RTÉ.

Children are also less likely to be infected and pass on the virus.

Since last week, the HSE no longer routinely tests and traces the close contacts of children with the virus in primary schools.

The full impact of this is likely to take some weeks yet to be seen, particularly as temperatures drop.

After a series of lockdowns and cocooning that affected the older population, there is some relief in a study by Tilda, the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing from Trinity College. It found that multi-morbidity – where people are living with two or more long-term or chronic conditions – was highest in the US at 60.7pc and lowest in Ireland at 38.6pc.

It looked at four countries and a lifetime prevalence of 10 common chronic, cardiovascular and mental health conditions among 62,111 adults aged 52 to 85. Ireland had the highest prevalence of osteoporosis of all four countries.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, principal investigator of Tilda, said: “Research shows that preventing the development of chronic diseases may be beneficial in delaying or preventing dementia-related disease or cognitive impairment.”

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