HSE representatives from within the Midlands region have urged caution as the local community opens up following the latest easing of Covid-19 restrictions announcement.
Speaking this week, Dr Una Fallon, Director of Public health in the Midlands, requested the local public to continue with adherence to the relevant public health guidelines as the HSE addresses the issues relating to the recent cyber attack.
This is an exciting time as the country opens up after a challenging and prolonged period of restrictions.
The number of cases of COVID-19 in the Midlands region is steady at approximately 20 cases per day. While the rate of Covid-19 does not appear to be increasing, there is a risk that lifting restrictions too quickly will cause an increase in numbers.
Fifty percent of the adult population have had one dose of vaccine and 20 percent have received two vaccinations. This means that most Irish people are still vulnerable to infection and can still be potentially harmed by the virus. There is no guarantee of safety, even for a young person.
Young persons can still become severely unwell and may require hospitalisation or ICU treatment. We are not quite sure yet whether COVID variants of concern (VOCs ) are going to be a problem in Ireland.
“As the HSE copes with the recent cyber-attack, we are asking the community to do everything they can to prevent preventable illnesses such as Covid-19. This does not mean we cannot enjoy getting out and about again, but please do so carefully. Please do not have big social gatherings indoors and please be incredibly careful outside – where you should still keep your distance.
“Within our communities, there are still a few unvaccinated groups that need to be protected.
“Leaving Certificate exams start on June 9 and any student who becomes a case or a close contact, from now on, is at risk of missing an exam and relying on predicted grades. They will have to isolate or restrict their movements for at least 10 days and may miss more than one exam.
“It is really important for students who want to sit exams and their families to cocoon themselves and not expose themselves to any possibility of COVID infection. Leaving Cert students should not meet up in the 14 days before exams and avoid in-person study groups. In particular, they should avoid ‘super-spreading events’ such as parties.
“Leaving Cert students and those around them need to practice basic prevention measures; keep a two metre distance, wear a face-covering, keep all indoor spaces well ventilated and practice good hand hygiene. This will help prevent becoming a case or a close contact,” Dr Fallon remarked.
Dr Abigail Collins, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE Schools lead, who has been working closely with the Department of Education, noted the impact which the persistent presence of the virus has had upon students.
“While only 3.4 percent of school-going children have had Covid-19, 100 percent of those have had their education significantly interrupted. Primary school children and some children with special education needs will continue to go to school until the end of June. It is important they do not miss any more of the school year’.
“All schools have been advised not to have school tours unless they can walk to an outdoor venue. If classes are going out, please stick to pods and do not mix classes.
“We do not recommend that photographers attend schools to take school photographs. Persons attending schools should be limited to those required for education purposes, inspections, health and safety/welfare requirements.
“Right now, it is important that we protect opportunities for children and keep schools open and as low risk an environment as possible. Parents, students, and all school staff, please keep following public health guidelines, minimise your exposures to Covid-19 and stay at home if you have symptoms,” Dr Collins asserted.