The BA.2 form of Covid-19 is so contagious that it would take “rather extreme measures” to bring it under control.
That is the message from Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly, as calls mount for an attempt – by the return of restrictions – to halt him in his tracks as hospitals collapse under the strain again.
So if the old tools to contain Covid-19 no longer work, how will the country escape this current wave?
Beaumont Hospital’s infectious disease adviser Prof Sam McConkey said today he believes the return to the 2020 “two-metre rule” may not be enough to stem the spread of the BA.2 subvariant.
It is currently being tried in China, he said, and has not been very successful. This is in contrast to 2020, when dramatic global restrictions worked against a much less contagious variant.
It’s not a good idea to go back to some of the more draconian measures like limiting household visits and closing non-essential businesses, he told RTÉ radio Today with Claire Byrne.
“We are not seeing the dire escalation of illness and death that we saw two years ago,” he said.
The most common demand is the reintroduction of the mask requirement. However, the government’s emergency Covid-19 decrees expire on Thursday.
A new law would be required to give legal title to any new mask mandate, and there are no steps to do so. Wearing a face mask might be seen as the most practical measure, and while the rise in cases has led more people to start using them again, many are clearly not.
The advice remains to wear them on public transport and healthcare, as well as indoors with a lot of people.
Masks are particularly important to protect other vulnerable people at higher risk if they contract Covid-19. Unless steps are taken to make them mandatory again, a high-profile awareness campaign will be needed to remind people to use them more often. It would be a gesture towards the required “leadership”.
Look to Denmark
As cases began to escalate in recent weeks, Denmark was one of the countries cited as an example of a rise and fall in Covid-19.
The hope was that Ireland would follow a separate pattern in which Covid-19 would retreat.
But there is no evidence of this so far. Denmark lifted restrictions in early February and said that despite high case numbers, Covid-19 – fueled by the BA.2 variant – no longer posed a critical threat. Other countries were encouraged.
How the numbers compare
At the end of March, Denmark had 1,748 patients hospitalized with Covid-19, half due to the virus and the rest with another illness. This compares to 1,624 Covid-19 patients in Irish hospitals yesterday.
However, Denmark’s cases are on the decline, falling by more than 10,800 in the past three weeks.
How did Denmark do it? A very high proportion of the Danish population is vaccinated.
A look at the vaccination ranking shows that it is second in Europe for vaccine doses with 226.05 per 100 people, while Ireland is seventh with 213.91 per 100 people.
According to Dr. Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of HSE, still has much to do.
In particular, he has cited the need for people to get vaccinated and get a booster shot.
Figures for hospitalized Covid-19 patients still show that the unvaccinated are disproportionately represented, he said. A significant number in intensive care have not received a booster dose, he added.
More than 700,000 people over the age of 16 are eligible for a booster shot. Then there is the ongoing hurdle of hospital capacity. Additional beds and intensive care beds have been added since the pandemic, but they are behind target and still far behind demand for now as infection control in Covid-19 patients causes significant disruption.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/with-return-of-extreme-measures-to-curb-latest-covid-19-wave-ruled-out-what-can-we-do-to-escape-it-41499248.html With no return to “extreme measures” to contain the recent Covid-19 wave, what can we do to escape it?