The State’s public health team has warned Government that it can give “no assurance” about Covid infection levels in the coming weeks amid uncertainties around variants and vaccinations.
In a letter to Government sent last week, the chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has also endorsed advice which extends the period of presumptive immunity from six to nine months post-infection. That advice came from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), the letter says.
While Mr Holohan told the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that the country was currently in a “positive position”, a number of “key uncertainties remain”.
This includes case numbers and incidence remaining “relatively high” and the fact “a significant proportion of the population, albeit at low risk to the severe impacts of Covid-19, will remain unvaccinated over the months of June and July.”
He also highlighted the uncertainty around coronavirus variants and around public buy-in which he said has remained high “but cannot be taken for granted.”
“As previously advised, in light of these uncertainties, no assurance can be given that the disease profile will remain similar to that experienced over recent weeks.
“While modelling projections continue to suggest that the easing of measures proposed in June, with a focus on outdoor activities, can be considered low-to-medium risk, there are greater uncertainties in relation to the medium-term position and the impact of a greater level of indoor social mixing across the population.”
He also said that depending on the transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant, modelling projections show “that there is still a risk of a further spike in case numbers, with a corresponding increase in hospitalisations.”
Dr Holohan said there was scope to continue the relaxation of restrictions, it must be on a cautious and phased basis with time between phases to assess impact, and that moving through each phase was “fully contingent on the epidemiological situation at the time.”
He urged unvaccinated people to be careful, limit indoor interactions with other unvaccinated people and avoid crowded indoor situations.