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HSE’s chief clinical officer says no immediate change to 2 metre social distancing rule

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HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

THE HSE’s chief clinical officer said there will be no immediate change to the 2 metre social distancing rule which had helped Ireland “not only bend that curve” but reduce the infection rate to 0.5.

Though increasing pressure has been levelled at the HSE to consider reducing social distancing to 1 metres to help kickstart the economy, Colm Henry said the State would continue to be guided by best international practice - which recommends 2 metres and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) guidance.

Mr Henry recognised the impact on HSE services and businesses throughout the State but he confirmed the measure would stay in place for the foreseeable future due to the concerns regarding droplet spread of infection through the air.

Mr Henry told a Covid-19 press briefing this morning:  “It’s important for us all to remember what’s happened since March 27. 

“It was only through the measures brought in on March 27, that were quite stringent but included social distancing of 2 metres, that we were able to not just bend that curve but reduce it back to where it is to 0.5 (infection rate.)

“There is variability on how this is expressed internationally. Many countries, including the U.S and UK, have included the distances of 2 metres, bearing in mind it’s a droplet spread illness. “But there are implications for our own services and clearly for services and businesses outside the HSE but it’s based on the projected length a droplet can spread.

“Initially we thought this was for coughing and sneezing but as we gained a greater understanding (of Covid-19) we are more aware how it can spread in those who are pre symptomatic or asymptomatic.

“The HSE are governed by the decisions of NPHET and how they advise based on the best international advice. 

“And we are informed from other countries and how they emerge from the pandemic, how they’re refining that distance or otherwise.

“But at the moment, it’s 2 metres based on the best available evidence we have.”

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Director general of the HSE, Paul Reid told the Covid-19 briefing the NPHET guidance of 2 metres was how “we are planning in terms of framework for services to work through.”

“It does have significant implications for us in terms of emergency departments, patients’ waiting rooms etc,” he added.

“So, two metres, certainly reduces the volume that we could have attending…But we have to work off what the current guidance is.

“One metre would certainly give us extra capacity in terms of managing outpatient departments and ED (emergency departments), or generally managing our services but we will be guided by what the current guidance is from the Government through NPHET.”

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