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NPHET tells government that normal life is still 'some way off'

The Government has been told that levels of happiness are at “the lowest point yet, while intolerance has reached a high point.”

THE NATIONAL PUBLIC Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advised the Government last week that ‘normal’ life was still ”some way off”, while emphasising that Irish people felt more bored and frustrated than ever before in the past year.

It also warned that while Covid-19 cases in hospitals continued to fall, the “serious and extensive disruption” to non-Covid services across the health care system “will be felt for some time”.

In its advice dated 18 February and published this afternoon, NPHET said that the situation remained “very fragile”, citing incidence rates and Covid patiants in hospital as at a high level.

The B117 variant was also cited as a concern and “there is a continuing risk relating to other known variants of concern”, it said.

It said that although the vaccine offered hope, it would be “some time” before vaccines had a “significant impact” (it’s not clear whether NPHET meant on the number of cases, the level of transmission, or on the severity of restrictions).

At a HSE briefing today, Dr Colm Henry said that early data indicates that there has been a collapse in Covid-19 cases in nursing homes and among hospital staff, which is most likely partly due to the effectiveness of the vaccine.

NPHET member Dr Cillian De Gascun has said previously that an uptake rate of 80-85% was needed to reach herd immunity. Currently, less than 5% of the population have been vaccinated.

Mood and mental health

NPHET also acknowledged that the mood of Irish people was lower than it had been at any point before in the past year, and that “solidarity is critical” to the Government’s response to the pandemic.

“Irish people are more bored, frustrated and lonely now than at any point during the Covid-19 pandemic. Levels of happiness are at the lowest point yet, while intolerance has reached a high point.”

NPHET said that the mental toll the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions would have on people was not yet fully known, but that supports would be needed in its aftermath.

‘Normal’ life is likely still some way off and it will be critical that there continues to be a strong focus on the non-physical healthcare impacts of the pandemic and the continuing provision of psycho-social supports.

NPHET also advised the government to planning for the ongoing management of Covid-19 and “preparedness for future pandemics” – something that other virologists have warned of over the past few months.

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