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Government should consider reinstating work from home advice amid 'very high' Covid cases - NPHET

In his latest letter to the Minister for Health, the CMO said extending the use of Covid certificates should also be considered.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD consider reinstating its advice for people to work from home where possible as the incidence of the virus continues to grow.

The incidence of Covid-19 is very high and increasing at a concerning rate, the Chief Medical Officer has told the Minister for Health.

In his latest letter to the Minister for Health, published this afternoon, Dr Tony Holohan said NPHET recommended that the government should consider extending the use of Covid certificates in settings where there is a “high risk of transmission through close contact or other activities”.

There should be ongoing communication with employers and employees around protective measures for people who do need to attend their workplace, he told Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Public health experts are concerned that the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital and in ICUs is remaining high as cases of the virus increase across all age groups up to 75-year-olds, with a particularly rapid rise among 19 to 24-year-olds.

Dr Holohan said that demand for Covid-19 tests is very high and increasing, with the positivity rate from community tests rising from 7% in late September to 18% in recent days.

“The impact of the recent booster vaccination on those aged 80 and older is evident with this being the only age group in which incidence is declining,” Dr Holohan said.

“The growth rate of cases is uncertain but is currently estimated at +3% to +5% per day,” he said.

The numbers of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospital and ICU remain high and, over recent days, there has been an increase in both the total number of hospitalised cases as well as the number of newly confirmed cases in hospital each day.

“Given the recent trajectory in terms of the disease profile, these indicators of severe disease may increase further in the coming weeks and will require ongoing close monitoring.”

He said the number of cases is putting a very significant additional burden on non-Covid healthcare services.

“Mortality related to Covid-19 is relatively constant at approximately 5 deaths per day, or 150 deaths per month. This may increase, given the very high case counts, although the impact of booster vaccination in older age groups should mitigate against this.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advised the government to focus on communicating the public health measures that are in place and supporting adherence to those measures, as well as implementing some additional measures, including the change in advice regarding working from home.

NPHET plans to review the situation again in two weeks and give “further consideration to a range of issues, including the upcoming festive period”.

The 14-day incidence rate has continued to grow, rising from 466 cases per 100,000 people in the middle of October to 676 a week ago and to 952 as of Tuesday.

In the first week of November, 173 outbreaks of Covid-19 were recorded, including 20 new outbreaks in residential institutions and 10 in hospitals.

However, because HSE Public Health is prioritising the investigation of outbreaks in settings like nurshing homes, hospitals, and residential care, outbreaks in other settings may be less likely to be identified, the letter said.

34 outbreaks linked to schools were notified last week, but 32 of those occurred during May and June and were being notified retrospectively, it said. 24 outbreaks were reported in workplaces.

The full letter is published on the government website.

Below is an extract from the letter outlining the recommendations and advice that NPHET has sent to the Minister for Health.

NPHET LETTER 1

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NPHET LETTER 2

NPHET LETTER 3

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Lauren Boland

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