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Holohan sounds a note of caution amid excitement

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A Dublin shopper with a Christmas balloon in the city centre yesterday

A Dublin shopper with a Christmas balloon in the city centre yesterday

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

A Dublin shopper with a Christmas balloon in the city centre yesterday

Ireland is still in a very precarious position and vulnerable to a sudden sharp rise in incidence of the virus, the chief medical officer is warning.

In his letter following this week's Nphet meeting, Dr Tony Holohan said there is not a lot of room for manoeuvre in terms of restrictions when we have an average of 300 cases a day and an R number at risk of rising above 1.

The number indicates how many people a person with the virus is likely to infect. It is currently in the region of between 0.7 and 1.

Nphet called for restaurants and bars not to reopen but said there could be an easing of restrictions on household visits. He also said hospitalisations and intensive care admissions had not fallen enough.

Risk

"In simple terms, people may not foll ow public health advice to limit social activity."

There is a fear the most vulnerable groups will see a rise in infection and illness.

Nphet said that a weekly visit to residents in nursing homes from one person could be allowable.

Separately, there were seven more deaths from the virus yesterday and 206 new cases .

Hospitalisations were stable at 248, including 35 in intensive care. Nphet said if the R holds at 1.2 from December 1 to 21, there is a real threat to the protection of the vulnerable , the health service and schools .

Among yesterday's cases 64 were in Dublin, 23 in Limerick, 20 in Donegal, 18 in Cork, 14 in Louth and 14 in Meath. The remaining 53 cases were in another 18 counties.

It comes as public health doctors in the HSE, who are central to the management of Covid-19, yesterday voted in favour of industrial action up to and including strike action.

They will meet on Monday to decide how to proceed in their campaign for the same status as hospital consultants.

The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) urged people to follow Government guidelines and to take personal responsibility for their actions over the festive period.

They said if we all work together we can celebrate the festivities in a meaningful way while minimising the risk of a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The ICGP'S Covid-19 clinical lead, Dr Nuala O'Connor, said: "It is important that we know how to get together in as safe a manner as possible, avoiding crowded, poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

"Caution should be taken where alcohol is involved. If you walk into a venue and it does not feel safe, then it is not safe - turn around and leave.

"We must think carefully about who we want to spend time with. We all understand the importance of family and loved ones at this time of year, but we want to make sure to spend time with them in as safe a manner as possible, in order to reduce the resurgence of the virus in January."

She added: "Please continue to wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands. If you have any symptoms of infection - fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss or change in your sense of taste or smell - please stay at home and contact your GP to get a Covid test. If you feel unwell, do not take a chance to meet with other people socially, or at work."

Crowded

The ICGP'S Covid-19 adviser Dr Mary Favier, said: "As GPs we see the impact that the Covid-19 restrictions are having on people's mental health, particularly those in vulnerable and disadvantaged categories.

Dr Favier said people living or working in crowded conditions are particularly vulnerable to poor mental health..

"It is much more difficult to manage a Covid-19 outbreak in a crowded household, and people working in retail and service industries at Christmas are at particular risk of stress. There are many people for whom Christmas is a sad time .

"We urge people feeling stressed or anxious to contact their GP for advice, and to take steps to reduce stressful situations wherever possible."


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