A measured rather than an emergency response to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases is needed, the Chair of NPHET’s Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group has said.
Professor Philip Nolan said Ireland is on a “knife edge” balanced on vaccine protection, as the Covid-19 positivity rate has risen from 8% to 10% across the country in the last week.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said that although the numbers are similar to this time last year, the dynamics are completely different.
He also said he did not believe the country is at the point where decisions will have to be made in relation to schools and it is very important for the Government, the population and children that schools remain open.
Prof Philip Nolan: “We’re looking at a situation where the disease is going in the wrong direction… This is a time for concern… It doesn’t seem to be the time for emergency action like we would’ve needed back in October  or January” | Read more: https://t.co/iqZY1MW3yy pic.twitter.com/peLf5BCtl9
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 14, 2021
Vaccination offers a really significant buffer, he said, and “it’s harder for the disease to move quickly when 90% of the population is vaccinated”.
Prof Nolan said that things are going in the wrong direction, but there is no reason to believe the virus will rapidly go out of control and another week or so of data will be needed before a measured response is considered.
More data is needed on the trajectory of the disease over the coming days ahead of NPHET meeting next Monday and giving recommendations to Government, Prof Nolan says | Read more: https://t.co/iqZY1MW3yy pic.twitter.com/E7N4tJFOiF
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 14, 2021
“We don’t know if it is a step change … and will stay at this level, but we are worried that we may be seeing genuine growth [in the virus],” he said.
He said there is a worrying number of Covid-19 tests being requested and there is also a concern that positive cases may translate to increased hospitalisations next week.
“We as a society need to do all we can to encourage people to take up vaccination” as this will reduce infection and minimise hospitalisation, he said.
“We have done a great job … but could do more,” he added.
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Prof Nolan said there has been a rise in cases in the last week and it is “a very rapidly changing situation and one of the scenarios we have modelled”.
The change in the trajectory of cases is very recent, he said, and the first indication was cases reported last Friday from swabs taken on Wednesday, but each day of data is important and “we will know an awful lot more about where we are going next Monday”.
The virus is moving subtly and slowly through the vaccinated population, he added, and appealed to people to help persuade everyone they can to take the vaccine, but also not to leave home if they have cold or flu symptoms.
“It is dangerous now for people to mix where one of them has any kind of symptom,” he warned.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today that Ireland needs to “knuckle down” and “to get back to the basics” in preventative actions on Covid.
“The number of cases have gone up”, there are more hospitalisations and that is “a cause of concern”, he added.
Mr Martin said decisions will be taken early next week as to how to proceed but said the pandemic situation has “taken a turn for the negative”.
He urged people to get vaccinated and said there needed to be more mask wearing.
Minister for Education Norma Foley has said schools have operated very well with infection control measures.
She told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that society has made enormous sacrifices for education.
Earlier, a professor of immunology at Dublin City University said the lifting of Covid restrictions should continue as planned and the focus should remain on mitigating the risks.
Professor Christine Loscher said the recent increase in new Covid-19 cases is not a surprise, because many other restrictions have been eased and people are mixing together more.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Prof Loscher said these mitigating risk factors should include maintaining the need for Covid-19 vaccination certs for indoor activities, along with a continued focus on mask wearing and hand sanitising.
Prof Loscher said the Delta variant is difficult to contain and people are also beginning to move indoors as the weather changes.
She said Ireland also still has a high number of unvaccinated people, at around 370,000.
However, she said, the high number of Covid cases is not translating into hospitalisations and death, which shows that the vaccine is working.Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the incidence of the virus in Ireland is high and still rising, adding that people who are unvaccinated are at a high-risk of contracting Covid-19 and becoming very ill.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he could not guarantee that the 22 October phase of reopening will proceed as planned.
The Government wants to see more data and that it will reflect on the situation, he said.
“It’s very important that the public at large realise that Covid hasn’t gone away,” Mr Martin said.
The proposed phase of reopening on 22 October is due to see the majority of restrictions lifted, including requirements for physical distancing and mask wearing outdoors and in private indoor settings.
Measures that are to remain in place include isolating while feeling symptoms of Covid-19 and mask wearing in healthcare settings, indoor retail and on public transport.