A leading infectious disease consultant has said the Irish public needs to adopt a “new normal” when it comes to Christmas festivities this year.
Sam McConkey, Associate Professor and Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons, believes Ireland should learn from the mistakes of last year.
The broad lifting of many restrictions over a two week period last December resulted in a surge in Covid cases and subsequent lockdown in January.
Public health officials and government ministers have all voiced concern in recent weeks about the increased transmission of the virus, with Cabinet set to meet on Tuesday to discuss further measures to stop the spread this winter.
Speaking on RTE’s Claire Byrne Live programme on Monday night, Prof McConkey said we shouldn’t have the same Christmas as last year when everyone “went wild”.
Ireland has been seeing an upswing in cases since October and if this continues, we may have to look at further restrictions being imposed on society, he said.
“We need to take action,” he said, as he warned that ICUs and healthcare workers will face huge pressure if the situation continues to deteriorate.
“In Ireland, we’re great at socialising and we showed last December how good we are at fun when we’re let do that.
“I think we’ve all got that idea now that we’re going to have a ‘normal’ Christmas, a normal December.
“That, unfortunately, I don’t think, can be the case.
“We need a new normal, and that may involve groups of four or six people together but not these huge groups.”
Prof McConkey said last December, “we all went wild and had a great time” and then realised in January that reopening society was ” a huge error”.
“What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t do that again,” he added.
Speaking on the same show, Dr Catherine Motherway, Head of the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick, said ICU’s won’t be able to cope with NPHET’s projected outcome of the current surge in infection.
Health officials have estimated that around 500 people could need ICU beds in December according to their latest projections.
“It’s not going to be possible to cater for 500 at the same time,” Dr Motherway said.
“We currently have 300 beds, so that would be increasing our bed capacity by 200 over six weeks and that’s not possible.”