Health officials' recommendation that the entire country be subject to visitor restrictions of six people from just one household was made due to an “alarming” spike in Covid infections among 18-25 year olds.
It’s understood that the recommendation, decided upon at today's meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team, is targeted at the “pinch point” of that age profile.
“That is the particular pressure point that needs to be squeezed, that the message needs to be got across to,” a senior source said.
The new restrictions as recommended by NPHET ordinarily apply to counties operating at level three of the Government’s roadmap for living with Covid only.
That meeting did not recommend that any other counties join Dublin and Donegal on level three, despite much speculation beforehand that Cork, Roscommon, Monaghan, and Galway would do so.
The weekly HSE Covid-19 briefing heard that while the capital, which is two weeks into its level three restrictions, is still seeing three times the infection rate of much of the rest of the country, evidence of “flattening” within the county’s numbers is beginning to be seen.
“We need people to urgently get out of the mindset of worrying what’s going to happen in the next three days, and start changing their behaviours,” HSE chief executive Paul Reid said.
Meanwhile, the HSE is to conduct research via the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of 500 community-transmitted cases of Covid-19 for seven days prior to their positive test in order to add “value” to the contact-tracing process.
Speaking of the research, Mr Reid said that the knowledge gained from it will then be incorporated into the call scripts for contact tracers.
The news comes in the aftermath of an admission two weeks ago by Professor Philip Nolan, the head of NPHET’s modelling taskforce, that the resources to ascertain close contacts of confirmed cases for a period of time greater than 48 hours prior do not exist.
However, Mr Reid said that the lessons learned from the research, which will be published once finalised, should not be allowed to “compromise” the speed of the contact tracing process.
Giving an update on testing and tracing, Mr Reid said that more than 93,000 swab tests were performed last week, with just under 16,000 contact tracing calls made.
Of the positive cases notified last week, some 25% were aged between 15- 24, Mr Reid said, with 10% aged younger than 15, and 10% older than 65.
Mean turnaround time from test referral to completion of contact tracing is now two days, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Una Fallon, the HSE’s director of public health in the midlands, outlined a number of different contact tracing scenarios to give an idea of how cases are quantified in terms of risk.
She said that in a meat plant the source is not of as much importance as it would be in a school as the environment is controlled.
She gave the example of how two students in a class, with no obvious connection, who were found to be positive were discovered to have been swapping desks for a particular class.