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'We're in a better position than we thought we would be': The key points you need to know from tonight's NPHET briefing

A round-up of NPHET’s press briefing at the Department of Health this evening.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn
Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn
Image: Sasko Lazarov

PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS today announced a further 403 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, with no new deaths.

This now brings the total number of Covid-19 cases in Ireland to 243,911, with the death toll from Covid-19 at 4,836.

Tonight’s briefing was lead by Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn, who was joined by Dr Cillian de Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, Dr Peter Kenna, Clinical Director of the Women and Infant’s Health Programme, HSE and Darach O’Ciardha General Practitioner and Founder/Director of GP Buddy.

Here’s what was discussed:

Maternity hospital visitors

  • Improvements in community Covid-19 rates and vaccination of healthcare workers may allow for more visitors to maternity hospitals

Dr McKenna was asked about the possibility of allowing visitors to attend with pregnant women to maternity hospitals for checkups, due to ongoing restrictions.

Dr McKenna acknowledged the sacrifices that partners of pregnant women have made through not being able to attend scans but says that the restrictions were implemented to ensure hospitals remained safe for healthcare workers and patients.

“The inability for partners to attend for scans, for example, is difficult and that has got to be acknowledged,” said Dr McKenna

“Any restrictions that were introduced were done so in order to keep hospitals safe places to be.”

According to Dr McKenna, these restrictions were put in place to ensure the same quality of care as was available before Covid.

There were three main considerations that maternity hospitals had to take into account when they decided on visitor restrictions. These are:

  • The background community rate of Covid-19
  • Possibility of key staff becoming infected with Covid-19
  • The infrastructure of the individual hospitals

However, Dr McKenna acknowledged that two of these factors have begun to change, with reducing Covid-19 in the community and healthcare workers broadly being vaccinated.

“I think that hospitals will be reviewing the restrictions and I would be hopeful that they would consider themselves in a position to have a less restrictive policy in the coming weeks,” said Dr McKenna.

Dr McKenna did say that it would depend on the circumstances of individual hospitals.

Case numbers

  • Dr Glynn has said that Ireland is now in a better position due to the efforts of the public and not the vaccination programme.

Dr Glynn has said that there’s “no question” that Ireland is in a better position than originally expected and that people should take hope from it.

However, Dr Glynn said that the progress that was made is “not a given”.

“The reality is that vaccination will not protect the vast majority of us over the coming weeks.”

According to Glynn, there are increased clusters related to increased inter-household mixing and family gatherings, as well as reports of symptomatic children being sent to school.

“Yes, we should all take heart. Yes, we’re in a much better position than we thought we would be even just a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve got to keep going with it and the vast majority of people are keeping going with it,” said Dr Glynn.

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Dr Glynn says that the increasing numbers of people being vaccinated over the next few weeks will begin to take some of the burden off the public, and may allow for the reopening of more of society.

Variants

  • Dr Glynn said that coverage and speculation over some Covid-19 variants has been disproportionate to what health experts actually know about the variants

Speaking on the Indian variant of Covid-19, Dr Glynn said that while health experts are remaining cautious, coverage of the variant is disproportionate to what experts currently know.

“Some of the commentary, speculation and coverage internationally of variants is really disproportionate to either what we know at present or the actual real-world impact of these to date,” said Dr Glynn

“It’s not that we’re not concerned, it’s not that we don’t need to remain vigilant but I would be concerned that people looking at some of the coverage of this internationally would feel a real sense of powerlessness.”

Dr Glynn said that the nature of viruses is that they replicate, and that Ireland should continue to monitor variants and avoid importing cases of new variants, but that people should continue to do what they have done throughout the pandemic.

“From an individual perspective out there in Ireland tonight, the best thing people can do is do all the things they have been doing and get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is offered to them.”

Dr Glynn said that NPHET will be monitoring the Indian variant, and Dr De Gascun confirmed that it is currently not a variant of concern in Ireland.

You can sign up to TheJournal.ie’s coronavirus newsletter below. Tomorrow’s edition will include further details from the briefing.

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