Nphet chief on Covid-19: 'First time in three months I've positive indications'

The latest figures signal that Level 5 restrictions are working and will raise hopes that the strict national lockdown can be eased at the four-week review period
Nphet chief on Covid-19: 'First time in three months I've positive indications'

Professor Philip Nolan urged people to abide by the restrictions and continue their efforts to supress the virus. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

Transmission of Covid-19 has been suppressed in the last week, with the incidence rate falling by 36% and health chiefs declaring the first positive indications for three months.

Case numbers, the testing positivity rate and the reproduction rate of the virus are all declining.

The latest figures will raise hopes that the strict Level 5 lockdown can be eased at the four-week review period. 

However, health chiefs have cautioned against such thinking, saying now is not the time for complacency, as the virus will seize any opportunity to spread rapidly again.

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, urged people to abide by the restrictions and continue their efforts to suppress the virus.

This is the first time in three months that I've been able to report positive indications that we're are starting to suppress transmissions of the virus.

"When we achieve this sort of suppression, the important thing is to make it last. We should take encouragement that our efforts are starting to work, but take this as a signal to maintain those efforts. This is not the time to relax."

Public health officials urged the general public to continue to abide by the health measures to keep supressing Covid-19. Picture: Colin Keegan
Public health officials urged the general public to continue to abide by the health measures to keep supressing Covid-19. Picture: Colin Keegan

Similarly, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said people should not "pre-empt" the lifting of restrictions by socialising more, and should refrain from planning Christmas events and organising parties.

"We don't want people to get ahead of us and take on activities that can [promote] the spread of the virus." 

There were six Covid related deaths and 772 new cases of the virus recorded today.

Dublin reported the most cases with 228, followed by Cork with 120.

Dr Desmond Hickey, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said; “Ireland has seen a reduction in its 7-day incidence rate of 36% when compared to the previous 7 days. 

Ireland’s progress is notable when compared to the rapidly deteriorating picture across Europe.

"In only four European countries was there a negative percentage change. Ireland is one of those countries, with a 30+ percentage decrease in the seven-day incidence rate compared to the previous seven days."

The reproductive rate of the virus is close to 1.0, a key indicator for controlling the spread.

The test positivity rate is also declining, it peaked at 7.9 percent and is now at 5.3 percent.

However, Prof Nolan said the hospital and ICU admissions lag behind changes in case numbers.

There are currently 325 Covid patients in hospital, with 15 new admissions in the past 24 hours. Of these, 42 Covid patients are currently in ICU.

Mortality is also increasing, with 96 Covid deaths occurring in October — 34 in nursing homes.

Only 36 Covid deaths occurred in September and five in August.

However, he urged for this decrease to be continuously monitored, as hospital and ICU capacity across Europe is deteriorating rapidly and Ireland could follow suit if the virus began to spread rapidly again.

Level 3 limits

Health officials also noted that the data seemed to indicate that level three restrictions are only able to stabilise the rate of the virus, not bring the case numbers down. 

Prof Nolan said Dublin saw an increase in cases despite the fact it went into level three on September 18. 

"We would expect after the introduction of measures... some change to occur one or two weeks after their introduction.

"What actually happened, was that case numbers stabilised almost immediately after those restrictions applied. 

"What that tells us is that people in Dublin began to reduce their contacts before the formal measures were introduced."

However, this stabilisation was only maintained for two weeks. 

"For reasons we don't yet fully understand, case numbers began to rise again... they doubled over the subsequent 10 days."

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