‘Consider yourself potentially infectious’ warns CMO amid highest level of cases yet

Covid-19 transmission levels are so high currently that everyone in the country should consider themselves potentially infectious, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said as a record 16,428 cases were confirmed yesterday.

ll indicators of disease in the community are a “cause for concern,” he said.

Dr Holohan warned that the Omicron variant “is accelerating rapidly in the community,” with the highest ever number of confirmed cases reported yesterday. 

“Given the very high levels of transmission of this new variant nationwide, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious and adhere to the public health measures by washing hands regularly, keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowded places and reducing social contacts as much as possible.”

He noted that on two consecutive days this week, over 100 patients with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a detected test result while in hospital. “As we move towards the new year, we do so with the knowledge that 92pc of the population over 16 years are now fully vaccinated.

“The roll-out of the vaccine booster is well underway,  and the vaccine campaign for children aged 5 to 11 has commenced for those with underlying conditions.”

There have been 22 newly notified deaths in the past week, bringing to 5,912 the total deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland.

There were 568 people in hospital yesterday with Covid-19 – a four-week high and an increase of 47 on the previous day.

There were 93 people in ICU with the virus, up one from Tuesday’s figures.

“If you are planning to visit retail environments in the coming days, please choose retailers that adhere strongly to the public health guidance, and leave any environment that feels unsafe,” Dr Holohan said.

“The current levels of infection we are experiencing means that shopping in crowded environments, where physical distancing is not possible, should be seen as a high-risk activity and should be avoided unless absolutely essential – especially by those who are not yet fully vaccinated and boosted.”

This comes as the testing infrastructure is stretched to the limit as many people reported being unable to book PCR tests due to demand.

Case tallies would likely be even higher if there was more testing capacity across the system.

There have been no test appointments available across the entire country on numerous occasions in recent days. Demand for tests in the coming week is likely to reach 300,000 appointments, HSE lead on testing and vaccination Damien McCallion said.

Approximately one in every four cases in Ireland since the pandemic began have been in the last four weeks since the first case of Omicron was confirmed in Ireland on December 1.

Separately, hospitality staff who are close contacts should be treated as essential workers and allowed to return to work after five days in order to ease staffing shortages in the sector, the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has urged.

The RAI said the current close contact guidelines were having a “huge impact” on many businesses who were struggling to stay open due to staff having to isolate.

Currently, close contacts who have not had a booster are told to restrict their movements and stay at home for 10 days and do five antigen tests.

Those who have had a booster at least seven days ago must restrict their movements for five days and do three antigen tests.

“The current wave of cases is having a huge impact across all of hospitality because of the close contact rules.

“We believe we need to reduce the 10 days down to five for close contacts within the industry.

“We would also like to see hospitality seen as an essential service in light of the fact there’s a certain cohort of the population that rely on restaurants for their daily consumption of calories.” Mr Cummins told the Irish Independent.

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