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'It won't be possible to protect nursing homes': CMO warns of widespread community transmission

Dr Holohan said protective measures in the nursing homes will not be enough to keep the virus out if transmission in the community continues to increase.

Image: Sam Boal

THE CHIEF MEDICAL Officer has warned there is now widespread community transmission of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Speaking at this evening’s press briefing, Dr Tony Holohan confirmed a further 825 cases of the coronavirus and one further death.

He said officials have seen a significant further deterioration in the profile of the disease in the last week. There are now 20 counties with a 14-day incidence of in excess of 100 cases per 100,000.

Nationally the 14-day incidence is 168 per 100,00, up from 108 at the beginning of last week.

“We have widespread community transmission in the country now,” Dr Holohan said this evening. “And we’re not going to be able to and haven’t been able to document all of the patterns of infection, how they occurred in each individual – nor is it even a reasonable aspiration.

The measures we now have to take have to be directed to the whole population, which is why we’re appealing to everybody – every single individual, every single family, household organisation, workplace – to listen to the public health advice and not conclude this is something that applies to somebody else when it applies to each one of us.

“We all have to accept that kind of responsibility now, because we’re not in a position to say that we know exactly where all the cases are, we know exactly where all the close contacts are. These measures – this advice – is directed the whole population, because we have widespread community transmission, accelerating at the rate that is accelerating at.”

A number of large outbreaks have been reported in nursing homes over the last two weeks, with one home in Portlaoise today confirming three residents diagnosed with the disease had died. More than 30 cases have been confirmed at the home, with ten of those among staff.

This evening Dr Holohan said “it simply isn’t going to be possible” to protect nursing homes adequately with this level of community transmission.

He said lessons have been learned about the virus and about organisation and protective measures for nursing homes, but this alone will not keep the virus out.

“There is little point in us doing everything that we possibly can within a nursing home in a context when outside the nursing home we have widespread community transmission – we simply have to address that,” he said.

“To the extent that we see widespread community transmission of the kind that we’re seeing at the moment, it will be impossible to fully keep this infection out of nursing homes.”

Dr Holohan said there is “no question” that of transmission patterns continue to rise, there will be more infections among nursing home residents and “the result of that, unfortunately, will be further mortality”.

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