Holohan: Vaccination success could see further lifting of restrictions within weeks

Holohan: Vaccination success could see further lifting of restrictions within weeks

CMO Dr Tony Holohan, Professor Philip Nolan, and Deputy CMO, Dr Ronan Glynn at this evening's briefing. Picture: Paddy Cummins /Collins Dublin

The chief medical officer has said the country could be in line to lift further restrictions "in the coming weeks" due to the success of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Dr Tony Holohan also said the "great progress" in vaccination take-up had contributed to hospitalisation statistics remaining at consistently low levels.

At present 2% of cases are being hospitalised, the chief medical officer told the weekly Nphet briefing, albeit with a much shorter length of stay on average, down to seven days from 15 on foot of the vaccination programme.

Some 1,408 cases of the virus were notified on Wednesday, with hospitalisations up ten to 152, but with the numbers in intensive care relatively static at 26.

Nine deaths reported over the past week

Meanwhile, nine deaths had been reported since the previous Wednesday, July 21, according to the deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn, bringing the total figure across the pandemic to 5,035.

The Nphet members sounded cautious optimism at the apparent stabilisation of cases of the virus across many countries. 

Dr Holohan said many more hospitalisations would have been noted were it not for the “great progress” being made with the vaccination programme.

He underlined that optimism by suggesting that further returns to normality may “not be far away”.

“In the coming weeks”, he said, the country may be in a position to “move away from some of the economic or social restrictions” currently in place, assuming the steady progress in vaccinations continues.

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group. Picture: Paddy Cummins /Collins Dublin
Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group. Picture: Paddy Cummins /Collins Dublin

Professor Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET’s epidemiological modelling group, warned the path of the virus in the coming weeks remains uncertain.

“Our best estimate of the underlying growth rate is 4% per day,” he said, but added that predictions could as easily be 2% or 6%, meaning cases could “double” over the next 17 days, but could also conceivably be significantly less.

However, Professor Nolan said he does not expect further large spikes of the virus.

“After 18 months or so people are very clearly reading the risk, and if our collective behaviour starts to push cases up, we can collectively become more cautious,” he said. 

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