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Health chiefs ‘optimistic’ restrictions are stabilising Covid-19 cases

However, Prof Philip Nolan warned that the number of daily cases need to be lowered before the restrictions can be lifted.

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Professor Philip Nolan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Philip Nolan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Philip Nolan (Brian Lawless/PA)

The statistician advising the Government on restrictions has said he and the chief medical officer are “optimistic” that current health measures are stabilising Covid-19 cases.

However, Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the epidemiological modelling advisory group, warned that the number of daily cases need to be lower before restrictions can be lifted.

He made the comments after the lockdown in Co Kildare was lifted on Monday night.

Around 60% of the country’s pubs have remained closed for more than five months while further restrictions on gatherings were reintroduced earlier this month.

“I think both Dr (Ronan) Glynn (chief medical officer) and myself would be optimistic, it’s important to be cautiously optimistic at times in the face of this virus,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.

“So we have had a stable daily count since August 19. It needs to be lower, I wouldn’t want to be hit with another event from a baseline of 100 cases per day.

“The lower the number of cases, the better we can cope with any new outbreak, so I do think it is working.”

Prof Nolan, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said that “if and when” pubs reopen, people will have to stay in small groups and remain separate.

“Sadly, if we’re going to be able to go to school and go to work and carry the risks of our transmission that those things carry, we really are going to have to reserve our contacts for those settings and meet in small groups,” he explained.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“So those group restrictions will be with us for some considerable time, because they’re protecting our priorities around the school, work, participation and sport – all of those things.”

Prof Nolan defended the turnaround test time after it emerged that it took more than 72 hours in one weekend.

He said that while the team is “anxious” to bring the testing time down, the delay was caused by a large outbreak.

“The vast majority of tests right now are coming back in 24 to 48 hours,” he added.

“We do have a national target, not only to get the result back, but to have the contacts traced within 72 hours of the referral for test, which would mean the test results should be back well within 48 hours.

“I know the HSE is working extremely hard to hit that target. It’s a very challenging target, it is literally world class. So sometimes it is going to be missed, particularly if there was a big strain on the system.

“Broadly speaking, the idea to take 36 to 48 hours is a reasonable expectation for us as members of the public to expect to get our results back.

“It’s impossible really to do it much faster than 24 hours and therefore 48 hours is a good target.”

PA