CMO says country can get coronavirus under control once more

Dr Tony Holohan said he believed that the lockdown would work
CMO says country can get coronavirus under control once more

Dr Siobhán Ní Bhriain, consultant psychiatrist and HSE integrated care lead, and Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer. Picture: Collins

Ireland will get coronavirus under control once more, the chief medical officer said, but half of close contacts are not showing up for follow-up tests.

Dr Tony Holohan was speaking as a further 13 deaths and 1,269 cases were announced and as Ireland goes to level five restrictions at midnight.

He said it was important to look at "the whole chain" of transmission in order to protect our health services, but he believed that the lockdown would work.

"It's going to take a big societal effort, with all the measures, government is now mandated, supported by the behavior of the public, but when we do get back in control, that responsive public health system will be the key thing to protect us."

Dr Siobhán Ni Bhriain, consultant psychiatrist and HSE integrated care lead, pleaded with those who test positive to attend for their secondary test on day seven. 

Thus far, she said, just half of the people were attending for this. 

She said that while the positivity rate among these people was between 2% and 3%, this was still a significant number of people.

"It’s a small percentage, but, nonetheless, it’s people that we’re missing.

I know people don’t want to turn up for the test. I know it’s not pleasant. But we’re asking people to please show up for your test.

Dr Holohan said he believed fines would increase compliance among the public, despite doubts from the Economic and Social Research Institute.

He said that he believed that most people were adhering to public health guidance, but said that every additional measure would be needed. 

However, Dr Holohan said that he did not want to answer hypotheticals on what Plan B might be if this lockdown does not work.

"The buy-in and behaviour of people will be really important. What's important now is that we all take personal responsibility."

Dr Holohan said that when Ireland eases measures in December, there could be no change from "all of the good work that has been done".

"We're not going to start on a pessimistic note. We know we have a big challenge to overcome, but we believe we can overcome it."

Dr Holohan said that it was taking, on average, two days for people who have symptoms to come forward for testing and this needed to be shortened. 

However, he said that the "data did not support" the idea that schools were any more dangerous in terms of exposure to the virus than anywhere else.

He said that of tests in 519 schools, 12,658 children and adults had been tested, with 352 additional cases identified above the index or initial case.

Dr Heather Burns, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said the positivity rate in schools was 2.8%, with the general rate being over 7%. 

She added that it was important that children and staff do not attend school when ill.

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