HSE chief: January lockdown is not inevitable

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan thinks "the country should go to Level 2" for Christmas.
HSE chief: January lockdown is not inevitable

Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid, said: "It's really important that we use ...December to have a safe Christmas." File photo: Photocall

The chief executive of the HSE has said he does not agree that another lockdown in January is inevitable.

Ireland is currently in one of the strongest positions in Europe for new Covid-19 cases and Paul Reid says the health service is stronger because of the lockdowns.

However, he added: "We've seen increased presentations or anxiety and stress. It's really important that we use this period, whatever the decision is that government makes today, that we use December to have a safe Christmas.

"I call it as a kind of a staircase of risks, and every step you take along those, we all increase risks, over each step. Government has to take the whole balanced set of risks and inputs involved, so a decision around restaurants or gastropubs, they have to consider all of the inputs that we've all given."

Mr Reid told Newstalk he shares the concerns of the Tánaiste of a spike in cases in January but says it does not have to be inevitable.
"Obviously I have the same concerns as everybody on the lag effect as people mix in greater numbers. It does take a lag factor of few weeks for them to come in the hospital cases. We can make it a safe Christmas.

It's been a long dark tunnel we've all been in, and people deserve a break people, we need to see our families and that's a value for the health service as well. 

"It shouldn't be inevitable, it's one thing that is in our hands.

"We're 70% down at the trolley numbers that we were in last year. We're in a stronger position going in."

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan agrees that a January lockdown is not inevitable and says the Government should move to Level 2 restrictions for Christmas.

It's understood Cabinet has decided to go against Nphet advice by allowing restaurants and pubs that serve food to open, while the rest of the country will be placed in Level 3 with some alterations on home visits.

Jim O'Callaghan says the Government "has options" on where it could position the country.

"My own view is that the country should go to Level 2," Jim O'Callaghan said. "Let's remember people who have been at Level 3 and Level 5 since September 18.

"I think the restrictions that were imposed, people went along with them on the basis of getting numbers down that there would be some benefit at the end of the process and I think people need to see some benefits."

He said there is a need to be realistic, that no matter what step is taken today, the numbers probably will go back up.

"But that shouldn't justify another lockdown in January. It's not an acceptable way for the country to deal with it," he said. "Every January we have a trolley crisis, it's not acceptable that from now on people will say 'Oh we have a trolley crisis issue, we have to stop people going into hospital, let's have a lockdown'.

This is a dangerous disease, particularly dangerous to people who are elderly, but we need to recognise that personal responsibility for this disease plays a significant part. 

"I think Irish people are being very careful but the point I've been making consistently is that we can see the consequences of the disease, but we're only now beginning to see the negative consequences of the restrictions and they are enormous."

He highlighted the "damage" being done to the lives of children and young people.

"I want to see restrictions lifted so that young people can go back to their pastimes, that they can play outdoor sport. Level two still imposes significant restrictions. You're only allowed to have six people in your household, we've learned a lot about this from the previous restrictions, and obviously household visits are the primary cause of cases.

"I have no difficulty if we want to limit that, either have a variation on level two as we do on level three and limit home visits."
The Dublin Bay South TD says the second wave of Covid-19 "was nowhere nearly as damaging and dangerous, as the first wave in terms of deaths", and eldery people especially need to be careful, but the country has adequate testing measures to lower restrictions.

"I'm not suggesting in any way that there's a free for all. We're going to have to live with restrictions until the vaccine is rolled out, but I just do not think we can stay with this level of restriction."
Mr O'Callaghan also said that Croke Park could safely fit 1000-2000 people to watch the All-Ireland final in small groups.

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