Digital Desk Staff
The Government has been warned of the risk of the “significant impact of a further wave” of Covid-19 infections if social contacts increase too much before vaccines take full effect.
The warning from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) came ahead of this week’s Cabinet decision to approve plans for the significant reopening of the economy and society over the next two months.
As The Irish Times reports, while insisting the plans are low to moderate risk, Government figures including Taoiseach Micheál Martin have since outlined their readiness to intervene to halt the reopening if the virus spirals out of control.
The easing of restrictions, such as the return of inter-county travel, non-essential retail and construction, will be closely monitored ahead of a second phase or reopening in June involving the hospitality industry.
Nphet’s letter to Government warned of a “significant impact” from a further wave of infection if social mixing becomes too high ahead of “a sufficient proportion of the population being protected through vaccination”.
Modelling projections in the letter also showed that increased mixing could lead to between 1,100 and 7,000 cases a day, and in a worst-case scenario, 10,000 admissions to hospital.
Conversely, it showed sticking to public health advice would allow vaccines to build up and avoid further surges later in the summer, even if social mixing increased later on.
In his letter, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan also warned people are “gradually pushing the boundaries” of public health measures, with compliance at its lowest level since last summer “with a particularly steep fall in recent weeks”.
The Government’s reopening plans were based on advice from Nphet. One senior source said “we’re placing faith” in Nphet, which has “been on the cautious side of right on most things”.
On Friday the Taoiseach said the easing of restrictions in May would be cautious and gradual. “We will not be afraid to intervene if there are worrying trends in this,” he said.
His remarks echoed those of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar who warned earlier there could be an “emergency brake” on reopening.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said yesterday he would be “getting up every single day through May nervous” due to the volatility of the situation.
“The advice we have is that if we embrace these measures it’s low to moderate risk but if we go beyond them... we could have a problem.”