Calls for Covid measures to be reintroduced, Niac considering fourth vaccine dose

Dr Denis McCauley said the public must be advised to wear masks in settings where there are groups of people
Calls for Covid measures to be reintroduced, Niac considering fourth vaccine dose

Vivienne Clarke

There is a need for the public to be sensible and responsible about public health measures to combat the current surge in Covid cases, the chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO) GP committee Dr Denis McCauley has said.

GPs are seeing a surge in Covid cases, some people were getting quite ill and the numbers in ICU were beginning to go up, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

This is a problem and it needs to be recognised, he said, adding that the thinking needs to be changed “subtly” initially.

The public must be advised to wear masks in settings where there are groups of people, to maintain social distance and to continue to wash their hands.

Public health measures worked, he said, warning: “This hasn’t gone away, it’s coming back.”

“Let’s be sensible, simple public health measures should be recommended again.

“We are a little bit in denial.”

Dr McCauley said politicians did not want to be seen as the bearers of bad news, but there was nothing wrong with being sensible and responsible.

“We need to rekindle old public health habits,” he added.

Vaccines

Dr McCauley's comments come as the chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid said they are awaiting advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) regarding dispensing a fourth dose of the Covid vaccine to older and vulnerable people.

Figures from the HSE show just one in every five children aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated against the virus, compared to three quarters of children aged 12-15 and 89 per cent of those aged 16-17.

On rolling out a fourth dose of the vaccine, Mr Reid told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show: “We’re ready, we haven’t dismantled the structures."

He defended Niac by saying the group had served the country well during the pandemic with its advice on timing and sequencing, adding the HSE must act on the best evidence.

It was really important that the 720,000 people who have not received their booster jab yet because they were infected with the virus to do so now, Mr Reid added.

He also encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated as it had been proven that the vaccine provided the best protection against serious illness from the virus.

The current wave of Covid, while not causing illness as severe as previous variants, was still having an impact on the health service in terms of flow as elderly patients could not be discharged to nursing homes if there was an outbreak, he explained, adding that at present there was an average of seven cases of Covid per nursing home.

There were also 4,300 health service staff absent from work because of Covid and a further 1,000 staff in nursing homes.

“We are seeing increasingly crippling effects of Covid,” Mr Reid said.

He urged people to return to wearing face masks on public transport and in congregated settings, adding: “I would encourage people to get back to basics.”

Hospitals

Meanwhile, Cork University Hospital has said people attending the hospital's Emergency Department (ED) are facing delays as services are "exceptionally busy".

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the hospital said the increase in ED attendance is "due to the large number of very ill medical patients requiring admission", adding that there is "an increase in Covid-19 levels across the region".

"Patient care is paramount in CUH and this situation is being treated as a priority by hospital management who have taken steps to address this issue.

"Hospital management have requested that, where appropriate, the public contact their GP/South Doc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to attending the Emergency Department if their needs are not urgent," the statement added.

The warning from CUH comes after visiting bans were imposed in both University Hospital Limerick (UHL) and Nenagh General Hospital in recent days, while St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny, Wexford General Hospital and University Hospital Waterford have also confirmed similar restrictions.

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