Dr Tony Holohan has said that “small but vital” individual and collective actions can turn the current wave of Covid-19 around.
n a statement released today, the Chief Medical Officer warned that the current level of Covid-19 in Ireland is having a negative impact on the health of the general public and placing an “enormous burden” on the entire health system – “from public health to general practice to our acute hospitals”.
Dr Holohan said non-COVID care – including cancer surgery, cardiac care, hip and knee replacements, mental health and common ailments that, if identified and treated promptly, may be prevented from deteriorating further – continue to be “severely impacted”.
“We are all, understandably, very tired of this pandemic. Time and again we have asked the Irish people to take on board public health messaging and act for the collective good.
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“And time and again the vast majority have listened to that message and responded,” he said.
“Over 90pc of those eligible have come forward for vaccination and this high-level of vaccination uptake is having a positive effect, especially in preventing severe illness, hospitalisation, and deaths.
“We know that booster vaccines will add to this protection. They are already having a positive impact in those who have received them. It is really important that if you are called for your booster, you come forward for it straight away, he continued.
Dr Holohan explained that when transmission levels are high, the country is vulnerable to “sudden, unsustainable surges of infection”, which is the case at the moment.
“It is for this reason that we must now ask people to continue to heed public health messages. We know that this call is more difficult to respond to now than at any time previously,” he added.
Dr Holohan acknowledged that with most restrictions removed and society largely reopened, many people feel unsure about what they should or should not be doing.
He advised the public to engage in any number of different activities, across different locations, but warned that “not every environment available to you is a low-risk setting for Covid-19”.
Dr Holohan is also urging the public to follow five actions to protect themselves and help curb the spread of the virus.
“If you have cold or flue symptoms, isolate immediately and get a PCR test, not an antigen test.
“Prioritise who you need to meet. This does not mean staying at home. It does not mean avoiding all contact with others. But the reality is that the more people you meet up with, the greater your risk of catching COVID-19.
“Meet others outdoors and open windows when indoors. If indoors, keep your distance and avoid poorly ventilated spaces – virus particles can build up in these spaces, particularly if people are shouting, singing or coughing.
“Wear a mask. You should wear a mask whenever you are in crowded outdoor or indoor environments, including in shops, on public transport, in cinemas and theatres.
“Use the right test and understand what the test result means. If you have symptoms of Covid-19 you should isolate and book a PCR test online or contact your GP. You should not take an antigen test; a ‘negative’ antigen test result does not mean that you don’t have Covid-19 and you will still need to continue isolating and get a PCR test,” he said.
“Together, we can break the chains of transmission and bring down disease incidence. By doing so we can have a real impact on the number of people who end up seriously ill and in hospital in mid – December,” Dr Holohan added.
His statement comes as an additional 5,559 new case of Covid-19 were reported by health officials yesterday, while as of 8pm last evening there were 121 people in ICU and 640 people in hospital with the virus in total.