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Dr Colm Henry: 'Isolation' felt by older people should be considered when lifting Level 5 restrictions

Current restrictions are set to be eased on 1 December.

Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

THE “ISOLATION AND hopelessness” felt by older people must be considered when the government eases lockdown restrictions next month, a senior HSE figure has said.

The health service’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, who also sits on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), said consideration should be given to those who are socially isolated from others current Covid-19 restrictions.

Current Level 5 restrictions are set to be eased on 1 December, with speculation about what restrictions will be in place over the Christmas period.

And asked about the easing of restrictions, Henry suggested that public health officials and the Government should give consideration to older people.

“A few months is a long time for the rest of your life for an older person, particularly if you’re very old,” he said.

“Christmas is a special time. For some people, it may be their last Christmas.

“So whatever measures are implemented by Nphet or by Government, that protracted isolation for older people, for whom the rest of their lives might mean a much shorter degree of expectation than for younger or even middle aged people, is something they have to bear in mind.”

The HSE reported that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 has fallen in recent weeks, and Henry said that Ireland is now one of only two European countries with a negative growth in the 14-day incidence rate.

But HSE CEO Paul Reid also warned that the situation could change rapidly.

“We must also remember everything to do with this virus is always very fragile,” Reid said.

“In a short period of time it all can change very quickly. In a short period of time we could find ourselves dealing with a similar trend that we’re seeing all over Europe.

“While it is good and positive that we’re bucking the trend, we equally know it can turn very quickly. The one proven certainty about the virus is its unpredictability.”

Henry added that a price had been paid, particularly in mainland Europe, for thinking that the virus had gone away.

He said it was of some comfort that Ireland had managed to avoid significantly higher case numbers currently being seen on the continent.

There are currently 370 positive cases in hospital in Ireland, with 40 of those cases in intensive care units.

Of those 370 cases, 17 or 4.6% were in people aged 0-14 years old, 29 or 7.8% were aged between 15-34, while 119 or 32% were 35-64 with 8 ICU admissions in that age group.

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The remaining 205 cases, 55.4%, were 65 and over, with 29 ICU admissions.

Meanwhile, Reid also confirmed that the number of close contacts who had sought so-called Day 7 tests had improved in recent weeks.

It was reported last month that only half of those deemed to be close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case were turning up for their second test.

But Reid said today that the figure was now between 65 to 70%.

“It’s still really important to note that there are positive cases coming through on Day 7,” he said. “The Day Zero test is important, but the Day 7 test is equally important.”

Contains reporting from Press Association.

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