Throwing “caution to the wind” in winter because of high rates of vaccination is a “bad decision” from the Government, an infectious disease specialist has said.
Dr Jack Lambert said that sending a message of confidence to the public was “wrong” as he said we’ve done “nothing quick” in the battle against Covid in the last 19 months.
This comes as the Department of Health confirmed 1,725 new cases of the virus on Sunday afternoon. There are now 473 people in the hospital with the virus with 97 of those in ICU, an increase of four from yesterday.
“Who is planning ahead for this pandemic? It doesn’t matter if it’s hospitality or testing or booster vaccines.
"We need to be on top of booster vaccinations and make them easy and quick.
"We have done nothing easy and nothing quick in this country with any of the Covid strategies we’ve undertaken in the last 19 months,” Dr Lambert said on the Brendan O’Connor show on RTÉ Radio.
“Who thought we were close to suppressing it? It was just a case of, ‘we’re going to be 95pc vaccinated and we’re going to throw caution to the wind going into the winter’.
“That was a bad decision and a bad message to give to the Irish public in the first place,” Dr Lambert added.
The infectious disease specialist said that vaccination “helps tremendously but it’s not eliminating Covid and we’ve known this for months”.
The doctor said Ireland should proceed with reopening in society but added there are steps that can be taken and emphasised that can keep cases down.
He said it’s important schools remain open and said there have been “successful” antigen testing pilots conducted that could be rolled out.
“There are lots of modalities in terms of Covid prevention that can be looked at,” Dr Lambert said.
GP Ilona Duffy told the same programme she thought it was a “huge mistake” getting rid of contact tracing in schools.
Dr Duffy said that schoolchildren in Northern Ireland can return to school if they receive a negative test after being deemed a close contact and pointed towards this method enabling the better management of Covid in schools this winter..
According to today’s figures, intensive care cases of Covid-19 have risen by 23 in one week to 97 as hospitals deal with the virus surge.
Hospital cases have also increased to 473 today, up 14 from 459 last week. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) statistics show there are now 1,725 cases of Covid-19 in the community.
The 14-day incidence rate is 562 out of 100,000, also up from 452 last week. The seven day average of cases is 2,110, up from 1,713 a week ago.
While the five day average is 2,159, up from 1,833 seven days ago.
The Department of Health tweeted: “No single intervention is perfect at preventing the spread of Covid-19. It takes many different individual actions to slow down its spread.
“Every action you take is another layer of protection between you and the virus - the more layers you have, the more protection you have.”
HSE CEO Paul Reid added on Twitter: "Encouraging to see more and more people come through for vaccination.
"10,750 dose 1 and dose 2 vaccinations done... alone over the past four days. 5,000 of these through walk-ins & significantly from younger ages. Also seeing over 2,000 people per day registering."
People are being advised to continue wearing masks, avoid touching the face, to limit time in crowded areas, to use hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette, to socially distance and stay at home if unwell, to utilise ventilation, socialise outdoors if possible, to listen to government messaging, to go for a Covid test if showing symptoms and to get vaccinated.
The rolling out of boosters for the over 60s is underway and is expected to be extended to other age groups soon.
Meanwhile, today’s Sunday Independent reports more than 75 cases of a potentially more transmissible strain of the coronavirus have been found in Ireland.
The AY.4.2 strain – known as Delta Plus – was first detected in Ireland in June and then “kicked off” in September, Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said.
There are concerns that the variant could be the most transmissible so far.