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'I don't anticipate advice will change': Holohan says it's unlikely ease of restrictions will be announced this Friday

The chief medical officer told reporters this evening that NPHET’s advice to the government is unlikely to change.

Image: Saslo Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has said he doesn’t anticipate the advice on restrictions placed upon the Irish public will change by Friday, when an announcement is due to be made by government on what will happen from 5 May. 

If that decision was to be made this evening on whether or not to ease restrictions, there would be no change to this advice, he said.

Holohan made the comments at the daily Department of Health briefing, where he confirmed another 31 people have died from Covid-19 in Ireland and another 376 cases had been confirmed. It brings the total number of cases confirmed here to 20,253 and the death toll to 1,190.

Current exceptions to leaving home include essential workers travelling to work, and people going to shops for essential items, for vital family healthcare reasons or to take physical exercise within a 2km radius. People over 70 are also being told to stay at home – which is referred to as cocooning.

Holohan and the government have acknowledged on a number of occasions they are aware that these measures – which have been in effect since the end of March – have been difficult on the Irish people. 

However, the Department of Health’s chief medical officer said this evening “we haven’t got to a point” where we’ve seen the drop required in the number of cases of Covid-19.

Holohan said he didn’t see the “kind of circumstances” today that would see the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommend lifting restrictions.

He told reporters this evening: “If you look at today’s number, probably around 200 or so are coming from the nursing home. It’s still 200 cases coming from the general public. We don’t have a good enough sense of where they’re coming from. We’re seeing intensive care admissions from the community. 

Attributing it to a particular source is challenging. I don’t have information giving me a sense of where that is. 

“There is still – albeit low levels – continuing new infections occurring within the community at large. That’s why we continue to focus on the public health measures, and the compliance measures as much as we can.”

Holohan added that 129 intensive care unit beds were occupied. He said that represented around half the country’s original provision before additional steps were taken to boost capacity.

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“That is simply too high and we need to get that down further not only because it is about protecting occupancy but the lower the figure is it is a reflection of better protection of the public and lower levels of spread of the infection.”

The government’s next step, which now appears will be extending at least some of the current restrictions beyond 5 May, is set to be announced this Friday. It is also expected a road-map will be published giving a sense of timelines of when businesses will be permitted to reopen. 

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Sean Murray

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