Those over the age of 60 and the vulnerable have once again been told to limit their movements as Covid-19 deaths are set to surge in the coming weeks.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan described the deteriorating Covid 19 situation as “worrying and concerning”.
“It is particularly important that people who are vulnerable to this disease and people over the age of 60 in particular, minimise as much as they can their discretionary social contacts,” he said.
“And that they make an effective assessment of their own risks.”
This could include walking out of restaurants that fail to check for Covid passes, or leaving establishments where people feel the environment is not safe for staff and customers, he said.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) yesterday held its first public briefing since late August, prompted by a significant rise in Covid cases, hospitalisations, and intensive care unit (ICU) numbers over the past number of weeks.
Yesterday saw 464 Covid patients being treated in hospitals, including 86 in ICU.
A further 63 Covid deaths were notified in the last week.
Explaining why a booster vaccine campaign is being rolled out for over 60s at the start of next month, Dr Holohan warned: “There is evidence of waning immunity in older people”.
However, he stressed: “We are not asking people to stay at home necessarily, we are asking people to cut down their interactions.”
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the Epidemiological Modelling Group, said hospital admissions were rising due to the high level of community transmission, and warned of an increase in deaths.
There are currently 52 patients on ventilators, which Prof Nolan said is high compared to previous waves, and he warned: “Given the increase in case counts, we would expect to see an increase in mortality in the weeks to come.”
The public health experts accepted there is widespread public confusion as to why Ireland's Covid situation is worsening, despite the country's extremely high vaccination rate.
Prof Nolan said one challenge was the high rate of infections among young people in July. He said the rollout of vaccines had prevented further growth, but could not stop transmission completely. He said this was the same for infection rates across the EU
Dr Holohan said: “There is no question we have seen a drop in our collective adherence to measures.”
However, a surge in cases is not inevitable, he said, and called for greater enforcement of the use of Covid passes in travel and hospitality.
The warning from Dr Holohan and his fellow health experts comes as the Government is set to finalise protocols today to allow the reopening of nightclubs and music venues as well as the holding of the Cork Jazz Festival this weekend.
Senior Government sources have confirmed that socially distanced queues at bar counters are likely to be allowed in new guidelines to help bars deal with staffing issues.
No congregating at counters permitted as an emphasis on table service will continue.
Ahead of the Jazz Festival, a fresh emphasis is being placed on the role of the Covid certs and there will be a need to enforce the use of the certs this weekend.
It has also been suggested that capacity limits could pave the way for standing crowds at live events, but this has not been finalised.
Government sources have also confirmed that people will be able to book more than one table in bars and restaurants.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his parliamentary meeting that the guidance will be practical and common sense will have to apply.