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Dr Tony Holohan advises people to avoid crowds and indoor mixing.

Dr Tony Holohan advises people to avoid crowds and indoor mixing.

Tony Holohan, Chief Medicine Officer, has urged people not to meet with other households or to avoid crowded retail spaces as part of efforts slowing the spread of Omicron variants of Covid-19.

Although he acknowledged that testing centres are busy, he said that people with Covid-19 symptoms should continue self-isolating until they receive a PCR result.

His comments were made as yet another 13,765 Covid-19 cases were reported on Christmas Day. This was the highest single-day infection rate in the State since before the pandemic. Saturday’s numbers surpassed the 11,182 cases that Christmas Eve had previously set.

There were 426 Covid-19-related cases in hospital at 8am Sunday morning. 50 new hospital admissions were recorded in the preceding 24 hours. This was the lowest number of hospital admissions in a week.

The number of people admitted to intensive care units was 87, the lowest since November 9th. Only a third of ICU beds are currently occupied by critically ill patients, and that is just the Covid-19 population.

HSE data showed that Mater in Dublin had the most Covid-19 patients in ICU, with 13 at 8pm Christmas Day. University Hospital Limerick followed with 11, Tallaght with nine, and St Jamess in Dublin with 10.

There were 1,293 general beds in the hospital system. There were also 27 adult ICU and high dependency units beds.

Mr Holohan stated that people should continue to reduce contact and avoid crowded places as much as possible. We are seeing the Omicron variant of Covid-19 become the dominant variant in Ireland.

We know this variant is more transmissible then even the highly transmissible Delta variation. Please do not socialize or meet indoors to other households.

Avoid crowds, especially in retail environments. He encouraged online shopping whenever possible.

He suggested that people should not queue in retail environments that do not feel safe.

He advised people who have not had a booster jab to take every precaution to ensure they are eligible for it.

This means avoiding dangerous environments and keeping your contact list as low as possible.

Good protection

Mr Holohan said: All evidence suggests that a booster vaccine will provide good protection against infection by the Omicron variant.

He also stated that COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, should be treated immediately and a PCR test ordered.

Due to the high incidences of COVID-19 in the country, our test centres are extremely busy at the moment. However, it is important to continue to self-isolate up until you receive your PCR results and additional information from HSE.

Mr Holohan stated that it was important to take an antigen test every five days if you have traveled to Ireland from abroad.

During a round-table interview pre-Christmas, Taoiseach Michel Martin was questioned if the current wave in Covid-19 infections would mark the end of the big one.

He replied, “I’m loath to use this language, but, certainly, it would be more optimistic than not that things would be getting better.” [at dealing with the virus]At this. I do not have sufficient data to make a definitive assessment of the surge.

Martin acknowledged that some people believe Omicron is the last surge. However, he said: I’m not an expert enough to say that definitively. We know Omicron has actually infected people who have been infected with Delta before, which opens up the possibility of reinfection.

The main issue would be severity. This refers to whether the disease is more contagious but less severe. He stated that this could lead to a new horizon, a new scenario for the future.

Martin stated that the biggest game changer was the year past vaccination.

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He also said: Do you really think we would be open today for retail, construction and all other things if we had 4,500 and 5,000 cases?

To me, it is the biggest game changer.

He stated that boosters are being performed now, and that potential new vaccines for variants of the virus are being prepared. There may also be an annual vaccination program.

Martin added: I believe the HSE is seeking a stronger independent capacity to switch on and off vaccination programs around this issue.

He stated that anti-viral drugs are being developed and will hopefully lead to better treatment.

So I believe we will get better at handling it. That’s how I see Covid being dealt with in the future, while still allowing for our full economy.

Martin said that the economy is roaring back after we reopened since March, while cautioning that there was a lot of energy that was captured or suppressed through the Covid restrictions.

He stated that we are in a better place from this perspective than we would be without vaccinations.

There are many advances in medicine for 2022. I feel more optimistic, even though the current state of affairs doesn’t reflect that.

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