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NPHET considered 'full pause' on easing restrictions and warned they may have to be reintroduced

The Government was warned about the ‘precarious’ Covid situation ahead of today’s limited loosening of restrictions.

Dr Tony Holohan warned the Health Minister that Covid restrictions may have to be reintroduced.
Dr Tony Holohan warned the Health Minister that Covid restrictions may have to be reintroduced.
Image: Leah Farrell

NPHET ADVISED THE Government that Ireland’s Covid-19 situation is “uncertain and precarious” ahead of today’s curtailed easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The National Public Health Emergency Team said that the criteria required to allow the relaxing of most public health measures “have not been met” as Covid rates are deteriorating, hospital and critical care occupancy is increasing, and non-Covid health and social care services remain under pressure.

“It is therefore not recommended to proceed with the easing of public health restrictions on 22nd October as previously planned,” Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, wrote in his letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

The 12-page letter outlines that NPHET considered recommending a “full pause” on easing restrictions with a review in 3-4 weeks.

However, it concluded that this would be unlikely to result in sufficient improvement and it “did not believe it tenable that any pause now would result in a further easing of measures in November.”

NPHET recommended allowing reopening of aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time sector provided the “full range of protective measures” are in place and the “wide and robust” implementation of the Covid-19 cert. 

The public health advisory team said that the re-imposition of restrictions may be warranted if today’s changes do not have a sufficient effect on the profile of Covid-19 in Ireland.

It also advised that all people who can work from home should continue to do so.

The letter noted that recent research has noted that the Covid pass “has not been appropriately implemented across the hospitality sector in its entirety”.

It recommended that compliance with the cert system be strengthened and that it be implemented “more widely and robustly than is currently the case, including in hospitality and for indoor events”. 

It said measures including the use of face masks, physical distancing, ventilation and mitigation measures should remain in place and NPHET does not foresee these being removed until “at least February 2022.”

In the letter, Dr Holohan said that modelling suggests that daily case numbers could climb to 2,500-3,000 per day in November.

If this happens, a peak of 800-1,000 people in hospital could be expected in late November, including up to 200 patients requiring critical care.

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The modelling indicates that, in this pessimistic scenario, there would be 2,000 new admissions to hospital and over 300 admissions to intensive care units between now and the end of the year.

The letter cites the latest advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) which notes that countries with high vaccination coverage, such as Ireland, may experience a “high disease burden” due to potential waning of vaccine effectiveness or low levels of natural immunity.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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