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Tony Holohan: We know that visitors did not bring the virus into nursing homes

The chief medical officer said that it was always a risk that healthcare staff could spread the virus.

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CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has stressed that “visitors did not bring the virus into nursing homes”, in response to questions on whether they should have acted sooner to protect long-term residential care settings.

“There will be visitors who visited nursing homes who may feel responsible for having brought this infection in, and that isn’t true,” he said. 

When asked whether the virus was brought in to nursing homes through staff, Holohan said that the virus doesn’t move, but people do move.

People who work in nursing homes will have picked up the infection, and that’s the mechanism through which to get into nursing homes.
But it didn’t get in through visitors, it’s important for people who will feel themselves as being in some way implicitly to blame for having visited a loved one at the wrong time, it’s not their fault.”

“We put in place arrangements whereby we could enable staff who did move between nursing homes.. to stay in other settings to not mix with each other outside of the workplace to pass that infection on from one to the other. And those measures have worked.

“We have slowed the infection and the track of it in the nursing home sector. We’ve seen a continued fall now and the number of cases in that sector, and in the number of nursing homes that have been affected.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Holohan said that “we’re doing well” to suppress the virus, and said that there would have been many thousands of cases a day if nothing had been done.

Holohan said that although they had seen “extra movement” in the past couple of days, by and large people were still adhering to the rules.

When asked about whether it was too harsh to advise those who are cocooning to not engage in conversation with people while out for daily exercise, Holohan said “it’s difficult for people”.

He said that the restrictions were in place so that people over 70 “don’t put themselves at risk”, that advice would change as time goes on and people should still protect themselves “by not engaging with people, by washing their hands.” 

“The comparisons being drawn are not fair comparisons,” Holohan said of comparisons between Ireland and New Zealand , two island nations with a similar population. “They’re not valid,” he said.

When asked who we can compare ourselves to, Holohan said countries in western Europe. 

If you look at the path of infection in this country, we think we’ve done as well if not better than the most countries in Western Europe.

“We think we have done as well if not better. Many of those countries have not been able to suppress the infection in the way that we have across society.”

But, he added: “I don’t see any realistic prospect of pubs opening in June, no.”

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The issue of further measures at airports and ports will be discussed at a NPHET meeting being held today at 11am.

When Sean O’Rourke asked him how the pressure of implementing measures has affected him, Holohan said: “I have a good team of people. It’s not just me, I’m just representing other people’s work… [but] it gets between me and my sleep sometimes.”

There have been a total number of 22,385 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland, and sadly, there have been 1,403 deaths.

Of the total number of cases analysed as of Tuesday, 13% of cases have been hospitalised (2,891), and 376 cases have been admitted to ICU.

It was revealed yesterday that the reproduction number of the virus is between 0.5-0.6, meaning that for every two people who get Covid-19, one person won’t pass it on at all, and the other will pass it on to just one other person. 

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