Michael Staines
Michael Staines

06.51 20 Nov 2020


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Ireland has two weeks to get back on track, after attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus stalled in recent days.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said the reduction in daily case numbers has stopped in the last seven days.

There were 429 new confirmed cases of the virus announced last night alongside four additional deaths.

Ireland’s 14-day rate is now 116.5 cases per 100,000 people, with 3.7% of the 76,875 tests carried out in the last week coming back positive.

"Foot off the gas"

Dr Holohan said people have taken their “foot off the gas” in recent weeks with just days to go before a decision on exiting lockdown for the Christmas season.

“We made early and good, rapid progress over the course of the last number of weeks,” he said.

“We needed to keep that up and we needed to sustain that and we haven’t been able to sustain over the course of the last week.

“There are probably complex reasons for that, but at least a part of that will be in the decisions that people have made and lots of things play into it.

“Their sense of fear of picking up the infection perhaps reducing if there is a sense that there is less of it around.”

"Balanced asssessment"

Yesterday, the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said there are “heated discussions” and “passionate arguments” ongoing between officials and politicians regarding lifting restrictions.

Dr Holohan said Government will have to make a “balanced assessment” on what to do next.

“It is right and proper that we give public health advice as it relates to our assessment of the transmission of the disease and what it will require to change that transmission and drive it down to lower levels,” he said.

“Obviously there are a range of other considerations that Government has to have and ultimately, the decision that government has to make – onerous decisions on behalf of all of us – represents a balanced assessment across all of those and there will, rightly, be different perspectives on that.”

The Chair of the COVID-19 Modelling Group Professor Philp Nolan at the Department of Health in Dublin, 19-11-2020. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Meanwhile, the Chair of the COVID-19 Modelling Group Professor Philp Nolan said the stall in progress in recent days is partly due to people having more contact with each other.

“We have gone from 2.6 contacts per case on average, to 3.2 contacts per cases on average,” he said.

“That tiny difference, just one additional contact per day, has been enough to bring the transmission of the virus from a very low level, associated with a reproduction of 0.6, to reproduction levels of closer to 1.”

Lockdown

He said there is no point in setting any target for daily cases by the end of lockdown – warning that we all need to do everything we can to bring transmission as low as possible.

“It is the level of disease that matters much more than the reproductive number,” he said.

“We are just going to have to deal with what we are dealing with at the end of the month.

“So, the position we find ourselves in at the end of the month is now in our hands, as we have said before.

“There is no point in setting a specific numeric target to get to by the end of the month. Let’s get it as low as we can and the lower it is, the greater the flexibility we have over the subsequent weeks.”

Some 173 of the cases announced last night were in Dublin, with 44 in Cork, 26 in Donegal, 22 in Louth and 21 in Kildare.

Yesterday afternoon, there were 290 COVID-19 patients in hospital, with 33 in Intensive Care.


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