Michelle Devane, PA
Ireland is making “clear progress” when it came to reducing the incidence rate of Covid-19, but still has a “very large burden of infection” according to the Chief Medical Officer.
Dr Tony Holohan added the incidence of the virus in Ireland is now 10 times higher than it was when the Government eased public health restrictions in December and the country’s efforts to drive down the rate of infection must be maintained.
His comments come after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Level 5 restrictions will likely continue “well into” February.
Speaking at the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) briefing Dr Holohan said: “On December 1st, when we last eased restrictions, our five-day moving average was 261 cases per day, today it is almost 10 times that number at 2,430 cases per day.
“It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease. However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths.
“We need to continue to work together to drive this infection down and bring the disease back under control.”
It comes as the chief executive of the HSE said the Covid-19 situation in hospitals is at the “highest level of concern that we’ve ever had”.
Thursday saw a further 51 deaths due to Covid-19 and 2,608 new cases of Covid-19 recorded by the Department of Health.
Of the cases notified today:
•1,230 are men / 1,346 are women
•55% are under 45 years of age
•The median age is 42 years old
•1,019 in Dublin, 204 in Cork, 135 in Donegal, 132 in Galway, 131 in Kildare, and the remaining 987 cases are spread across all other counties.
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 21, 2021
Asked how long Covid-19 restrictions may remain in place Dr Holohan said Nphet did not have any reason to disagree with the Taoiseach’s expectations that Level 5 would continue for a number of weeks.
Dr Holohan said: “We have a very significant burden of infection. Looking at infection levels two weeks ago: they were very high, clearly very high.
“We’ve now reduced substantially in relative terms since then, but we have to look back to the beginning of December. We’re still 10 times higher.”
“It is simply a level of infection that’s way too high,” he added.
“We have further progress we have to make.”
The Taoiseach told Virgin Media’s Ireland AM that transmission rates of the virus were still too high to ease restrictions.
The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 is expected to meet on Monday to finalise plans to extend the current restrictions before Cabinet ministers approve the measures at a meeting on Tuesday.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn told the briefing that more than 500 people had died of Covid-19 in Ireland so far this month.
He warned that the trend was expected to continue over the coming days.
“Sadly so far in the month of January there have been 532 deaths associated with Covid-19,” he said. “This compares with a total of 174 such deaths in the month of December and 164 such deaths in November.”
Earlier it emerged Dr Holohan had warned the Government last week that the death toll was likely to be up to 1,000 by the end of the month.
In a letter to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on January 14th, Dr Holohan said the latest modelling data suggested that there could be at least 25 to 30 deaths a day.