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NPHET warned that Level 5 is the 'only opportunity' to control Covid-19

Dr Tony Holohan warned in a letter last night of a “significant and deteriorating” epidemiological situation.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

MOVING TO LEVEL 5 restrictions is the “only opportunity” to get Covid-19 back “under control”, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned in a letter to Government last night. 

The Taoiseach this evening confirmed that Level 3 restrictions will come into effect nationwide from midnight tomorrow, after rejecting NPHET’s recommendation that Level 5 restrictions be implemented. 

In his letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Dr Holohan warned of a “significant and deteriorating” epidemiological situation and said Ireland needs to introduce Level 5 as measures currently in place are not sufficiently controlling the disease as evidenced by the “high volume of community transmission”.

NPHET recommended, therefore, that Level 5 measures be introduced from midnight on Monday for four weeks.

It said NPHET is sensitive to the impact these measures would have on individuals, families, communities and businesses but said it “firmly believes that taking this action proactively for four weeks from now is the only opportunity to get this disease back under control while keeping schools open”.

Dr Holohan said that a graduated approach “will not have sufficient or timely impact on the trajectory and scale of the disease”.

“The measures proposed will only be effective if there is broad societal buy-in and adherence over the coming four week period,” the letter said. 

“NPHET advises that it is vital to do everything in our power now to arrest the current trajectory nationally and suppress the virus back down to a low level of transmission in advance of the winter months.”

The letter also states there are 31 open outbreaks in nursing homes, seven of which have been reported in the last week. There are 25 open outbreaks among vulnerable groups, with 10 in direct provision centres, seven in homeless settings and seven in Traveller communities.

Hospitals & ICU

NPHET said that admissions to critical care services have grown to an average of two per day, with 243 out of 281 critical care beds now occupied.

If current trends continue, it said 1,600 to 2,300 cases per day will be being reported per day by 7 November, with 43 people per day being admitted to hospital per day. 

The letter also raises concerns about the level of the disease among people aged 15-24, which accounts for one in every four cases, it said. The seven-day incidence rate in this group is 119 per 100,000 people.

NPHET’s advice – which took Cabinet members by surprise when the news first broke last night – was rejected by the Government today. 

The entire country will be put under Level 3 Covid-19 restrictions from midnight on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced in an address this evening. 

The Taoiseach confirmed that the government decided not to enter further into lockdown measures by moving to Level 5. Ireland will instead enter Level 3 for a period of three weeks. 

The situation will be reviewed again after this period.

“This is not about public health and businesses competing against each other, it’s about lives and livelihoods. We can’t have one without the other,” Micheál Martin said. 

Speaking this evening, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said NPHET gave “no suggestion” last Thursday that it would recommend the country enter into Level 5 restrictions.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live tonight, Leo Varadkar said this recommendation “hadn’t been thought through and was made without prior consultation”. 

“What happened on Sunday night came out of the blue,” Varadkar said. 

“Last Thursday, when we received our advice from NPHET, there all in writing, there was no suggestion whatsoever that they were contemplating suggesting that we move to Level 5.”

He said further that the recommendation was “not crazy, but not thought through”. 

“Government and NPHET have to get back on the same page,” he said, adding that people “won’t see a repeat of this” late-night recommendation. 

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