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'First green shoots of spring': 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.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Feb 11th 2021, 10:25 PM

PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS confirmed a further 866 of Covid-19 and 52 deaths in Ireland as Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn led this evening’s press briefing of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) addressing the Covid-19 crisis. 

This evening’s figures mean that there have now been a total of 206,801 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, along with 3,846 deaths. 

Here’s what was discussed at this evening’s briefing:

Maintain your efforts

Things are looking better but it’s not a perfect situation by any means. 

Cases numbers are down, the number of people in hospital is reducing and the nation could have just 100-200 cases per day by the middle of March if current trends continue. 

But everything is not looking rosy as Professor Philip Nolan explained how the reproductive number of the disease has, in fact, crept up, despite a reduction in case numbers. 

He said: “That’s essentially a warning to all of us of the necessity of maintaining our efforts.”

Despite the warning, future projections of the disease make for much better reading. 

“Nonetheless, our modelling projections tell us that if we do maintain this effort, if we can keep the reproduction number between 0.5 and 0.9, we remain on track to have between 200-400 cases per day by the end of this month.”

Restrictions to continue

Taoiseach Micheál Martin this morning said the Government is “looking at a continuation of a high level of restrictions” into April.

Deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, described how the modelling predictions show us that we still have “a long way to go”. 

He said that the mobility data shows that there are still more people on the roads every day than the start of the pandemic last year and implored those who can work from home to do so. 

“I think a message that we need to continue emphasising in particular now over these weeks is to work from home if at all possible. Not everyone can work from home, but for those who can, it’s really vital that people continue to do so.

“It’s the single best contribution that people can make at a population level is to cut their mobility and keep their mobility as low as possible. Over the coming in.

Double masking

The Centre for Disease Control in the US yesterday released a study and recommended wearing tight-fitting medical masks under a cloth mask to stop the spread of the disease. 

The CDC study found the most protective masks fit well around the face “to prevent leakage of air around the edges of the masks”.

Dr Glynn said there was nothing wrong with wearing two masks but urged the public to continue with hand hygiene and social distancing where possible. 

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“I think the key element of that study or that the key feature of that work was to emphasise the importance of a well-fitted mask. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from double masking.

“Ultimately, if you’re not wearing those layers properly, you’re not protecting yourself to any better extent so the key thing is that people wear a mask.”

Vaccines

There was some welcome positivity around vaccines and the data coming from nations which have so far inoculated more people than us. 

Professor Karina Butler, chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, said the data coming out of Israel is really positive, especially when you look at the rates of infection. Over 40% of their nine million people have received the first dose of a vaccine.

Butler said: “What we’re actually looking for is to get enough of the population vaccinated so that we can bring down transmission, and the data coming up globally. I mean, we’ll come back here in four weeks, and we will have a lot more information, but already if we look at Israel, we can see that it’s impacting the trajectory of the epidemic and the numbers of infection.”

She added that there is evidence that the rate of transmission among healthcare workers, here, most of whom have been vaccinated, are beginning to come down.

“Now we know that the rates in the community have come down, they are coming down a little bit more than we would have expected. So we’re beginning to see the first green shoots maybe of spring and the impact, but all of these vaccines have a role. All of them are safe. They’ve all got great safety profiles. And so, we’re spoilt for choice.” 

Butler added that the priority list for who gets vaccinated when is always under review. No changes have been made to it in recent days. 

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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