Dr Tony Holohan warns the public that the coronavirus, COVID-19 “has taken a turn that we didn’t want it to take”. The chief medical officer told RTÉ radio’s Today Show that he would prefer to be in a situation where NPHET was not needed.
As CMO, Holohan explains that there was a need for him to use experts across a range of disciplines. Before being shared with the Minister for Health, the experts were used in order to make a balanced and fair assessment of the situation.
Now 86 patients under intensive critical care with #Covid19. This represents almost 30% of ICU beds. This is likely to increase. None of us want to be that person. We can turn this around with heightened individual and collective awareness over the coming days & weeks. @HSELive
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) October 21, 2021
A recent increase of 13% in the number of COVID-19 outbreaks has seen reports to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre rise from 174 to 199 in one week. According to reports, 34 outbreaks have occurred in the workplace, with 19 recorded over the previous seven days. While school outbreaks have also seen an increase from 3 to 15 over the same period.
Dr Holohan also expresses his fair assumption that the booster campaign would not extend to the under-40s “any time soon”. However, plans for vulnerable groups to receive the upcoming booster vaccine will proceed as planned. The CMO said that although no evidence on waning immunity for young people and healthcare workers has been detected, the issue would remain under review by NIAC.
“Our nearest neighbours the UK are probably the most prolific users of antigen tests and have the greatest challenge in terms of infection that the Western world has seen,” added Holohan.
Parents sending symptomatic children to school following a negative test result pose a great deal of concern to Dr Holohan. The CMO urges parents to keep symptomatic children away from public places and stay at home to await PCR testing. With a significant change of collective behaviour in recent times, there may now need a focus on reducing the levels of transmission of the virus in the community.
“The vaccine was continuing to protect people from serious illness and hospitalisation, but it was only one tool and other tools such as public health guidelines on mask wearing, handwashing, social distancing and ventilation were required,” added Holohan.
Dr Holohan continued to say that the reopening of venues this weekend would mean more social contact. The CMO is calling on the public to be mindful of their personal behaviour and stay at home if they are symptomatic. He hopes people will help reduce the risk for others as nobody would like to go back to the “crude” measures of previous restrictions.
Even with the high levels of vaccination there were still risks with the high levels of transmission and there was a need to do everything possible to reduce those levels, added Dr Holohan. The CMO also acknowledges that there is “a small number” of cases of the AY.4.2 COVID sub-variant in the country.
Dubbed Delta Plus by some outlets, the variant is potentially a marginally more infectious strain, Professor Francois Balloux told reporters. Tests are under way to understand how much of a threat it may pose in the UK after it was responsible for over 6% of their cases in one week.
“We have the capacity to track those cases, it is not something about which we are raising alarm or concern at this point in time”.