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Warning of more nursing home deaths if threat not contained

We need everyone to take action, urges Dr Tony Holohan


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The harrowing spectre of more deaths from Covid-19 in nursing homes is inevitable, unless the level of community transmission now striking the country is brought under control, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned.

He also did not rule out another recommendation to put the country in Level 5 lockdown when experts meet to analyse the extent of the ­crisis on Thursday.

Dr Holohan also said Halloween house-to-house trick-or-treating should not go ahead.

Asked about the risk to nursing homes as Covid-19 tightens its grip, he said a lot has been learned about the virus and more protective measures are now in place in nursing homes since the early months of the pandemic when it claimed the lives of hundreds of vulnerable residents.

But he added: "There is little point in doing everything we possibly can in a nursing home in a context where outside the nursing home we have widespread community transmission. We simply have to address that.

"There is no question if we see the community transmission patterns continue to rise we will see more nursing homes impacted, more nursing home residents impacted and the result of that unfortunately will be further mortality."

Earlier yesterday the Kilminchy Lodge Nursing Home in Portlaoise, Co Laois, which has been hit by a Covid-19 outbreak, confirmed that three residents with the virus have died. Another was hospitalised.

Dr Holohan said outbreaks in nursing homes are rising, with 11 reported last week.

He was speaking as one more death from Covid-19 was reported and another 825 people tested positive for the virus.

He said: "There is no more time to be lost. We need everyone to act and we need to break the chains of transmission of this virus as soon as possible."

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Among yesterday's new cases, 254 were in Dublin, 147 in Cork, 39 in Cavan, 38 in Donegal, 37 in Kildare and the rest of the 310 cases were spread across 20 other counties.

The number hospitalised with the virus continues to rise and 224 were being treated yesterday, with 32 seriously ill in intensive care.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Thursday to assess the impact of Level 3 measures countrywide.

Although the rate of growth in Covid-19 has reduced in Dublin, the case numbers increased in recent days, so it is too early to say it "has turned a corner".

Amid growing speculation that Border counties could he moved to Level 4, Dr Holohan said the spread of the virus is growing faster in Northern Ireland.

There is constant contact with Northern counterparts and there is a challenge with the spread of Covid-19 in relation to a number of counties, such as Donegal.

Cavan has suffered substantial increases in transmission of the virus in recent days. The movement of people across the Border remains an issue.

Asked about Halloween, he said: "It's not going to be a ­normal Halloween. It can't be.

"We can't have children and families moving from house to house." It is also not the time for play dates and birthday parties, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Owen O'Flynn (23), a junior doctor in University Hospital in Kerry revealed his nightmare experience after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 in April.

He developed serious symptoms and it was discovered he had caught the infection four to six weeks previously. Previously fit and healthy, he ended up in intensive care.

He said: "My heart function started to drop to a third of what it should be. At that point I started to wonder would I ever get out of intensive care. Would I die in there?"

It took six weeks after discharge to "regain a sense of normality", he said.

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