Nphet warns government normal life is still 'some way off' in next Covid phase 

New document says that vaccination alone will not eliminate the virus and the added threat from different variants causes uncertainty
Nphet warns government normal life is still 'some way off' in next Covid phase 

Dr. Ronan Glynn, Deputy CMO, and leading member of Nphet, who are cautioning that Covid repercussions could last a long time. File picture. 

Normal life is still "some way off", Nphet has warned the Government.

A new document from the medics offering advice on how to handle the next phase of the Covid-19 response has been published, with Nphet saying that there may not be as speedy a return to life pre-pandemic as some hope.

The document says that the pandemic is a "marathon and not a sprint". 

It says that supports will need to be widespread supports available to society as people readjust.

"‘Normal life is likely still some way off and it will be critical that there continues to be a strong focus on the nonphysical healthcare impacts of the pandemic and the continuing provision of psychosocial supports," it says.

The document goes on to say that vaccination alone will not eliminate the virus and that the added threat from different variants causes uncertainty. This will need to be met by increased capacity for "whole-genome" testing.

“The long-term future epidemiology of this virus is unknown. Eliminating the virus or reaching herd immunity from vaccination alone is unlikely to be possible, it would require very high coverage in all adult age groups, not alone in Ireland but globally, and for the vaccine to be highly effective against transmission.

The impact of variants is also unknown. This means that the virus is likely to continue to be in circulation in future years.

“The severity of disease that it will cause and the requirements for ongoing vaccination will become known in time. As a country, and especially as a health service, there will need to be robust long-term planning for the ongoing management of this virus."

While the document says that vaccines offer "great hope", the immediate term response must be "cautious" and "guided by clear objectives".

It goes on to say that many parts of Ireland's public health response to this and future pandemics are "not fit for purpose" and calls for the recruitment of public health doctors be accelerated.

"Investment in, and resourcing of, public health and the establishment of a strengthened and reformed consultant-led future public health model is a priority. Provision has been made in Budget 2021 to double the public health workforce and recruitment must now be accelerated to ensure the availability of sufficiently resourced multi-disciplinary teams at a national and regional level. "

Nphet also calls for "an aggressive testing strategy with a low threshold for intervention", the rollout of retrospective contact tracing to identify sources of transmission" and "a renewed emphasis on and shift towards a regionally based and organised response".

The document outlines the importance of ventilation in enclosed areas and highlights the increased risk from things like “dining, drinking, exercising, singing or shouting.”

“While outdoor activities are safer, the risks are higher when there are large gatherings, limited social distancing, dense congregation, mixing among groups, and communal travelling to activities.”

It says that the pandemic is a "marathon, not a sprint" and says that sustainable responses are needed in the medium and long term.

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