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Covid-19: Thick-skinned Holohan returns with warning of 'further deterioration' since Sunday's Level 5 advice

NPHET last night reported five deaths from Covid-19 in Ireland and 611 new cases.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Image: RollingNews.ie

“THIS IS A RAPIDLY deteriorating position,” warned Professor Philip Nolan at last night’s NPHET press briefing. 

Sat beside newly returned Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, Nolan’s warning came amid the fallout from Sunday’s leak about NPHET’s Level 5 recommendation. 

With the entire country now under Level 3, Dr Holohan and Professor Nolan wasted no time in expressing their fears that Ireland’s Covid-19 situation had worsened even in the three days that NPHET met to recommend Level 5. 

All key indicators of the disease have deteriorated further since Sunday, the Chief Medical Officer said.

“What I have to get across is the seriousness of the situation. We’re really worried,” said Dr Holohan, who chaired his first briefing since taking a leave of absence for personal reasons in July. 

NPHET last night reported five deaths from Covid-19 in Ireland and 611 new cases. 

Hospitalisations and intensive care admissions due to the virus are increasing. There is continued incidence among 19-24 year-olds and those aged over 65.

The disease has returned to nursing homes. There have been five outbreaks in recent weeks where there have been more than 20 cases, Dr Holohan said last night. 

On 1 August there were 8 people hospitalised with Covid-19. There are currently 156 people in hospital, including 27 in ICU. 

The national R number now stands at 1.2, cases of the virus are doubling on average every 18 days.

Professor Nolan noted that the growth rate in Dublin is slower, growing by approximately 2% there compared with 4% nationally, but added that the full trend was not yet clear.

Donegal has the highest incidence rate in Ireland, of 312 cases per 100,000 of the population.

‘They don’t share our objective’

With NPHET due to meet today, all eyes will be on how it communicates its advice to Government – and if that advice as to whether to increase restrictions or not will be made public before it should. 

Dr Holohan last night addressed the fallout from Sunday’s Level 5 recommendation, saying: “The findings and the recommendations in the past required urgent and confidential discussion…that didn’t happen because it leaked to the media.

“Whoever leaked it did not share our objective of dealing with the disease appropriately,” he said. 

That didn’t stop further questioning from journalists at the briefing about Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s public slapdown of NPHET earlier this week, and speculation that the Government and NPHET are no longer on the same page. 

Dr Holohan said he spoke with Varadkar for a “considerable” time yesterday, that he has “thick skin” when it comes to criticism and, crucially, that he communicated his fears about Covid-19′s rapid spread to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly in a phone call on Sunday morning before NPHET convened. 

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Meanwhile, public health officials continued to hammer home the need for people to reduce their contacts.

“We all enjoy going out to a match, having a pint…some of these things aren’t possible, some of these are possible,” said Dr Holohan. 

The CMO added that there is a tendency of “blame” among members of the population. That, he said, is the “enemy of progress”. 

“Aside from taking personal responsibility…We can’t be blaming each other for transmitting a highly infectious disease.”

Based on current trends, Nolan said, Ireland could see 1,100 – 1,500 cases per day by 7 November. 

“The bottom line is unless there is a very serious drop… we will see hospital numbers that would be a very significant challenge as a society,” he said, adding that Ireland’s 14-day incidence is now 124 per 100,000. 

It is a “long time since we’ve seen those numbers change so quickly,” Nolan warned. 

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