A re-introduction of tough Covid-19 restrictions may be warranted if the prevalence of the virus continues to increase, Nphet has told Government.
In its latest letter, sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Monday, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said it is unlikely that vaccination alone, even at the high levels of vaccine coverage that we have now achieved, will bring the effective reproduction number below 1 such that we will achieve suppression of the disease.
As a result, this means that through this coming autumn and winter, possibly in the face of high levels of infection, we will remain dependent upon public understanding and buy-in to the basic public health measures in order to minimise opportunities for this virus to transmit.
“The Nphet cautions that the re-imposition of public health restrictive measures may be warranted should the application of the above measures not have sufficient effect on the profile of disease. In this regard, compliance with basic public health measures by the general public and across sectors will be critical,” Dr Holohan wrote.
Dr Holohan said Nphet concluded that the epidemiological situation has deteriorated and is now uncertain and precarious.
“Nphet further concluded that the transition criteria as set out above that would facilitate the removal of the majority of the public health measures still in place have not been met, with a deteriorating disease profile, hospital and critical care occupancy increasing, and continuing sustained pressure on the provision of non-Covid health and social care services.
"It is therefore not recommended to proceed with the easing of public health restrictions on 22nd October as previously planned,” Dr Holohan said.
Despite the concerns, Nphet said the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sector can reopen only with the full range of protective measures in place and the wide and robust implementation of the Covid-19 pass.
In this regard, guidance should be developed or updated as appropriate by the relevant sectors.
The range of public health protective measures currently in place across sectors should remain, including the appropriate use of masks, physical distancing, ventilation, and mitigation measures; the Nphet does not foresee these being removed until at least February 2022, Dr Holohan said.