Ireland’s Covid-19 peak came later than in other European countries and for that reason, the relaxation of restrictions cannot be compared, according to Dr Tony Holohan.
At yesterday’s briefing of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) the chief medical officer at the Department of Health dismissed suggestions that Ireland is lagging behind other European countries in easing Covid-19 restrictions.
“I wouldn’t say that. This disease occurs at a different point in different countries,” said Dr Holohan.
“When you look back on the time period of when this infection arrived, it arrived in different countries at different points in time. Our experience of the peak of infection was later than many other European countries.
“We may or may not be doing the same things [as other countries] but it may not be appropriate to do them at the same points in time,” he said, referring to the easing of travel and other restrictions.
Dr Holohan confirmed the death of a further six people from Covid-19 and another 39 cases.
The total number of Covid-19 fatalities stands at 1,645 and the number of cases at 24,876.
The data, the CMO said, is encouraging but the key message to “stay home” remains in place until the team meets next week to assess the possibility of moving to the next phase of reopening the country.
“We’ve seen no trends in the disease, thus far, that give us any cause for concern but we want to maintain the high levels of compliance,” Dr Holohan said, adding that people should continue washing their hands, social distancing, and following public health guidance.
He also urged people to avoid making plans for non-essential trips abroad and said he doesn’t expect air travel to resume in the short term.
Dr Holohan said NPHET is liaising with Government departments and looking at ways to reduce the burden of Covid-19 restrictions on children in particular. “We’re looking at everything,” he said, refusing to be drawn on what measures could be on the cards.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there is no evidence of a socio-economic divide in the incidence or mortality rates of Covid-19.
He was responding to queries on Central Statistics Office data on rates of infection and death, and household income.
“It’s way too early to draw any firm conclusions from it other than to say there isn’t a firm pattern emerging from the data so far in Ireland,” Dr Glynn said.
Meanwhile, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called for a “rapid, independent inquiry” into high rates of infection in healthcare staff.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the infection rate is “unacceptably high” compared to other countries. “The INMO will be meeting with the minister for health next week.
“We will seek an urgent, independent inquiry into healthcare worker infection rates,” she said.
It was confirmed at the NPHET meeting that 32% of all Covid-19 cases were among healthcare workers but health officials did not respond to questions about INMO calls for an inquiry.