In a series of tweets last night, the Chief Medical Officer issued fresh warnings that the latest epidemiological indicators are “a cause of concern”.
“The Omicron variant is accelerating rapidly in the community & given the very high levels of transmission of this new variant nationwide, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious, & strictly adhere to the public health measures.”
He then suggests “washing hands regularly” at the top of a list of measures which also include keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowded places and reducing social contacts as much as possible.
However, his emphasis on washing hands while not referring to the wearing of masks has been picked up by numerous health experts here and abroad who have made the point that Covid is an airborne-transmitted disease.
Prof Jose-Luis Jimenez of the University of Colorado replied: “Added this to world's hall of shame. Unbelievable that @CMOIreland is SO OUT OF DATE with the science, giving outdated guidance to reduce transmission.
“Even @WHO acknowledges #COVIDisAirborne. Need #FFP2forAll, ventilation. Handwashing not that important.”
In a reply, Professor Anthony Staines, Head of Health Systems at Dublin City University, wrote: “I think @DonnellyStephen needs to be “100 per cent confident” that he and the Government are getting reliable and up-to-date advice on Covid-19.”
Tomás Ryan, a neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin, added: “Please publicly recognise that COVID is airborne. Recommend FFP2/KN95 mask wearing in public.
“Ask all employers & state organisations to review air hygiene in their buildings. Encourage greater use of antigen testing (& provide guidelines). Anything less is ignoring the science.”
Other members of the public has also taken issue with the advice with one person storming: “Washing hands? What about FFP2 masks? What about ventilation? This is airborne!
“Washing hands has its place but it's not the number one for prevention. I really do not understand your refusal to promote proper masks & antigen tests. You know this is airborne.”
“Dr Holohan, please,” adds another. “Washing hands? Washing hands?? Covid spreads by airborne transmission, as you are aware. This has been known since at least mid-2020.
“You absolutely must clearly convey the fact of airborne transmission to the public, along with mitigation measures.”
There were 568 people in hospital yesterday with Covid-19 – a four-week high and an increase of 47 on the previous day.
There were 93 people in ICU with the virus, up one from Tuesday’s figures.
Last night, Chief Medical Officer Dr Holohan used Twitter to warn the spread of the Omicron variant posed a severe threat to the public.
He wrote: “In recent days, we have seen a rise in new admissions to hospital of #COVID19 patients, at levels not seen since January 2021,” he tweeted.
“On two consecutive days this week, over 100 patients with #COVID19 were either admitted to hospital or received a “detected” test result while in hospital.
“Today, we are also reporting our highest ever number of confirmed cases in Ireland.