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'These signs tell us we need to move': Health chief explains introduction of new restrictions

A range of concerning statistics were cited as the explanation for new measures being put in place now.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking in Government Buildings this afternoon.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan speaking in Government Buildings this afternoon.
Image: Sam Boal

IRELAND’S CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Dr Tony Holohan has explained why health officials advised the government to introduce a suite of new restrictions to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

The new measures announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today include the closure of all non-essential retail shops, the banning of non-essential travel and restrictions on gatherings of more than four people.

Read the full details of the restrictions here.

Dr Holohan cited a range of concerning statistics in explaining why the new measures are being put in place now.

He said that Ireland’s six deaths from Covid-19 and the identification of over 1,000 cases in the country were key factors in deciding to step up restrictions along with a day-on-day increase in the number of admissions to intensive care units.

The fact that one in four of the cases identified are health care workers and 45% of cases have been community transmissions where authorities have not been able to identify the source of infection were also contributory factors.

“We think that these signs tell us that we need to move,” he explained.

As the ECDC, (The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) said in its updated advice on social distancing yesterday; that we [need to] move rapidly, coherently, comprehensively, and decisively to recommend a step-up in the terms of the measures that we’ve mandated.
And it was for those reasons that we asked and advised government on the measures that were announced today. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland was ahead of the curve internationally in terms of the measures it has introduced.

He explained that Ireland’s response was based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines which encompass social distancing and social restrictions accompanied by heavy testing, contact tracing and quarantine. 

That’s the South Korean model, it’s the model used in Singapore. So far it seems to be the most effective model to contain the virus and that’s the model we are pursuing.

The Chief Medical Officer echoed Varadkar in saying that he believes that Irish health authorities have taken the actions at an early stage of the disease, in response to trends that give them cause for concern. 

Holohan added that the restrictions have been put in place in a structured way to increase their effectiveness:

It’s not just a single measure, or a couple of measures. It’s a comprehensive set of coherent, mutually reinforcing measures for the whole of society to adopt to reinforce the message that we’ve had from the beginning around personal responsibility.

Holohan added that the reduction that has been seen in the number of contacts that confirmed carriers of the virus have had is a “proxy indicator” that the methods are proving effective and the public is listening.

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Ceimin Burke

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