Now is not the time to be planning Christmas parties, the Chief Medical Officer has told The Hard Shoulder.
Dr Tony Holohan said the latest modelling suggests up to 200,000 people could pick up the virus next month – with as many as 4,000 people hospitalised over Christmas.
He said the situation would also see many thousands of household close contacts forced to self-isolate over the holidays.
Dr Holohan said all of that can be avoided if people “follow the spirit as well as the letter” of the current COVID regulations.
“None of this is inevitable,” he said.
“The things we need to do are, most importantly, if you have symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated … you must self-isolate and you must organise a PCR test,” he said.
“Not an antigen test, a PCR test - and that is critically important.
“The key thing that will limit your risk of transmission to other people is that you self-isolate and stay in your own room until such time as you have had that test and you have the result.”
Asked if Christmas parties should go ahead, he said companies should not be organising anything that involves unnecessary socialisaiton.
“I think a very responsible thing for people who are in a position where they are organising Christmas parties or where they are responsible for the health, wellbeing and welfare of their staff and the customers their staff look after, a responsible thing to do would be to conclude that now is not an ideal time to be planning major socialisation events that don’t need to happen,” he said.
“We know what happens over the Christmas season is lots of parties and we really do not have the capacity as a country to have significant Christmas-type levels of socialisation in the run-in to Christmas if we are to turn this around.”
He said weddings are different because they take so long to plan and are important milestones in people’s lives.
“Our message is that, in as much as possible, your discretionary social contacts, things you don’t need to be doing, you cut that down,” he said.
“Think about what you are planning to do over the next week or two in terms of social contacts and try to cut that down in two.
“I am not going to say people shouldn’t have their weddings, people are at the lest minute probably now looking at wedding plans and wedding arrangements because that is a very difficult thing for people to change now.”
The 4,000 figure quoted by Dr Holohan is different to that NPHET presented to the Cabinet Covid Committee, which suggested around 2,200 patients could be hospitalised in the worst-case scenario.
NPHET’s best-case model predicted 1,100 to 1,200 COVID patients would need hospital care.