The government is expected to prepare a “plan B” of tighter restrictions before Christmas to prevent hospitals from being overrun amid fears over the impact of the Omicron wave, experts have warned.

Specialists in public health, medicine and science have expressed concerns about the impact on the health system of a predicted increase in Covid-19 cases, as government public health advisers said the most infectious strain is now the dominant variant in the state.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said the new variant was detected in 52% of reported cases. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said it took less than two weeks for Omicron to become dominant, showing “just how heritable this variant is.”

Ruairí Brugha, professor of public health at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said lockdown measures, including pub and restaurant closures and cancellation of public events, are expected to start before Christmas and last for four at eight weeks to “flatten the curve” of unavoidable Omicron cases and provide relief to health workers.

Eight weeks of confinement

Professor Anthony Staines, head of health systems at the University of Dublin, said the country was in an “emergency braking situation” requiring an eight-week lockdown to reduce infections.

“There is no good way out of this,” he said.

Catherine Motherway, head of the intensive care unit at Limerick University Hospital, raised concerns that if the new variant was milder but infected more people, it could put the same strain on a healthcare system that was already treating of Covid-19 patients in a third of its intensive care beds.

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU

“If we cannot control it with this particular set of restrictions, I hope our politicians will make difficult and unpopular decisions,” she said.

Dublin-based GP Ray Walley, associate professor of general medicine at UCD, said the current restrictions were “appropriate” but the government should be prepared to respond “very quickly” before Christmas if necessary to prevent the health system is no longer “excessive”. overwhelmed ”.

Vaccine specialist Anne Moore of the UCC School of Biochemistry said the government needs to be much more careful in its planning in case Omicron causes the same level of severe disease as the Delta variant when it was three. times more contagious.

“If that happens, I think we’re in a very bad situation again,” she said.

Disease trajectory

A new 8 p.m. curfew for pubs, restaurants and other indoor public places goes into effect on Monday.

The government ruled out plans for further Covid-19 restrictions before the end of the year, but said there was no guarantee of the disease’s future trajectory.

The government plans to unveil improved pandemic financial supports this week that will be offered to businesses forced to close early due to new coronavirus restrictions.

The total number of Covid cases reported over the weekend was 12,457, a 33% increase from the figure for the previous weekend.

National efforts to protect against Omicron were stepped up over the weekend as the Covid-19 vaccine booster program opened to people in quarantine on Sunday, drawing hundreds to line up for them. third doses in vaccination centers across the country.

Under new rules coming into effect Monday, participation in indoor events must be capped at 50% of the venue’s capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less. Outdoor events will be limited to 50% of the site’s capacity or 5,000 people, whichever is less.

Wedding receptions can take place after 8 p.m. until midnight but will be limited to 100 guests. Religious events such as midnight mass are exempt from the 8 p.m. closing rule.


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