'We can save Christmas': CMO says preventing spread of Covid-19 dependent on public behaviour

'We can save Christmas': CMO says preventing spread of Covid-19 dependent on public behaviour

Tony Holohan  said ‘all key indicators of the disease have deteriorated further in the three days since the last meeting of Nphet on Sunday’.

The country's most senior medic has said the Covid-19 crisis has got even worse in the three days since his team recommended a complete lockdown of the country on Sunday.

In his first Nphet briefing since the Government chose to ignore that advice, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said that the "grave concerns" he outlined to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are now even greater. 

He spoke to the minister before Sunday's Nphet meeting and again "at teatime" after it. 

The CMO's statement that he spoke to Mr Donnelly raised questions from Opposition parties, who asked what Mr Donnelly knew and when.

"All key indicators of the disease have deteriorated further in the three days since the last meeting of Nphet on Sunday," said Dr Holohan. 

"Covid-19 is spreading in our community in a very worrying manner. We have to break these chains of transmission.

"I was very clear about the level of concern that I had and, if anything, the level of concern I had then is less than the concern I have now." 

He said that it is "not inevitable" that the country will move up levels, adding that it is "not a doomsday scenario".

However, he said it is dependent on public behaviour.

"There is nothing inevitable about this and if each one of us can play our part and get everybody pulling in the same direction we can avoid that. 

"So, I won't make a projection beyond if we stay on the same track, there could be 1,100 to 1,400 cases a day by the first week in November."

The CMO said it is impossible to know if fewer people would die if the Government moved to level five.

"I don't think the public should be confused. I would put in simple terms: if there are discretionary things in your life around what you do, if they involve contact with others, if you can avoid those for the next period of time, do. 

"These are things we all enjoy doing but there's a significant component of responsibility here."

Head of Nphet's modelling committee Professor Philip Nolan said that we can "still save Christmas over the next three weeks" while Dr Holohan said that consideration is being given to how children should approach Halloween. 

Guidance will be made available after this week's Nphet meeting which takes place on Thursday.

The CMO said he and Leo Varadkar have "cleared the air" after the Tánaiste's RTÉ interview in which he criticised Nphet's actions on Sunday. 

Dr Holohan said the relationship between Nphet and the Government has not been damaged.

He said he will continue to do his job and give advice and he has never given any thought to leaving his role due to the Tánaiste's comments, adding that it was "never personal".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that a review of existing legislation around fines imposed on people who breach Covid rules is underway. 

He said more "graduated and proportionate" fines for minor breaches of regulations are being considered, with options to be presented to the Cabinet Covid committee on Friday. 

The fines are expected to be between €50 and €200 for minor infringements.

"We want people to come along with this effort, we want level three to work, level four and five would have profound negative implications for society and the economy," said Mr Martin.

Meanwhile, proposals drafted for the Government by the GAA, IRFU, and FAI to get fans back into stadiums will ask that supporters keep on their masks. 

The proposals are almost finished and will be submitted to the Department of Sport by either the end of this week or early next week.

It is understood that they will offer a roadmap which, were conditions to allow, would see a gradual move from two-metre social distancing down to one metre, allowing more supporters to congregate.

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