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If current restrictions have no effect, there will be 400 people with Covid-19 in hospital by Halloween

A number of stark figures were given at tonight’s Department of Health briefing.

Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

IF NEW RESTRICTIONS coming into force from tonight have no effect on the spread of the coronavirus, it’s forecast that there will be between 1,800-2,200 Covid-19 cases a day, and over 400 people with Covid-19 in hospital by Halloween. 

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, gave the stark figures at a briefing at the Department of Health this evening. 

He said that hospitalisations are “increasing exponentially, in fact, increasing exponentially faster than we projected 14 days ago”.

These figures come after the government that new restrictions would come into force from tonight that would advise against visits to households except for essential reasons.

Counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan will be placed under Level 4 restrictions. These restrictions are to last for four weeks, until Tuesday 10 November.

Speaking at the briefing tonight, Nolan said that the R number this week is estimated to be around 1.4 nationally up from 1.2 last week – but in Dublin it’s closer to 1, while in the rest of the country it’s around 1.6, and possibly as high as 1.8.

“What happens over the next couple of weeks very much depends on the reproduction number,” Nolan said.

Advice from Holohan and Glynn

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that these reproduction numbers are evidence that people are still changing their behaviours to limit the spread of the virus; at the start of the pandemic the R number was estimated to be at 4 or 5.

Dr Glynn showed graphs that indicated that there hadn’t been a decrease in the movement of people, their use of public transport, the number of people travelling into work or the number of people using ATMs in the past few days and weeks. 

007 Health briefing Source: Sam Boal; RollingNews.ie

He emphasised the particular problem of people who are still not working from home where they can, and also added: “It’s simply not acceptable this winter to be going into work with cold and flu symptoms.”

He says these are the type of stories that they are hearing over and over again.

Holohan said: “Ultimately, it’s our individual behaviours – in our houses, in our social settings, at work, our adherence to all of the public health advice – that determines whether any given Level is successful.”

Whatever people have been doing… we’re urging people to act – now’s the time for people to act, to take their individual responsibility
Cut out, as much as people can, non-essential social contact… Socialising, visiting other people’s houses, going for play dates or facilitating all of those kinds of activities – now is not the time for them.

He said that the scale of the infection in the population is at a level where there is such widespread community transmission that contact tracing was no longer a priority:

The reality is, we simply don’t know who all the cases or the contacts are to map those things reliably. At the point of infection that we have at the moment, it can no longer be regarded as an objective. 

The bad news – and a bit of hope at the end

004 Health briefing Source: Sam Boal; RollingNews.ie

The 14-day incidence nationally is 206.7 per 100,000 per population, and the positivity rate over the past 7 days is at 6.2%.

As of 2pm today, 241 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 29 are in ICU. There have been 24 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

He said that although the epidemic is not growing as fast in Dublin as it is in the rest of the country, it is growing.

In Dublin the five-day rolling average on 1 October was 182 cases per day, on 8 October it dropped to 131 cases per day, but as of today, it is up to 242 cases per day.

There was a record number of 1,205 Covid-19 cases notified today, with three deaths confirmed. It should be noted that we are conducting far more Covid-19 test per day than we had been during the first Covid-19 wave in March and April. 

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As of now, Cabinet is not expected to meet tomorrow, and no major new announcements are expected. 

Nolan noted that he was concerned about the “tone” of tonight’s briefing, which he said was one of “seriousness and concern” but not one of “hopelessness or despair”.

“If… we stand back collectively and distance, stop spreading the disease over two weeks, those 10,000 people [who would contract Covid-19 in the next few weeks if nothing changes] – most of them will recover. And they’re not spreading the disease.

“On the one hand… if we’re growing, it is really really dangerous, but if we’re here and we start to shrink, we can get on top of this quicker than we think.

So the message here has to be about: more of those basic things could turn this around quicker than we might think.

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