From traffic hypersensitivity to warnings that the B117 variant is now dominant, here are seven things we learned at the latest Covid-19 briefing.

'Continued improvement'

Chair of NPHET Epidemiological modelling group Professor Philip Nolan set out some of the recent trends in Covid-19 in Ireland, with a number of positive patterns.

The R number remains below 1, demand for testing is down, and the proportion of tests returning positive is also down.

B117 variant now dominant

The latest data from the National Virus Reference Laboratory is confirming the near-dominance of the B117 variant of Covid-19.

The variant first identified in the UK is now firmly established as the dominant variant in our population.

Hypersensitivity

Prof Nolan said mobility levels are higher than they were during the initial lockdown last spring, but they are still hugely down on pre-Covid levels.

On suggestions people are encountering traffic jams, he said people are very sensitised to noticing any sort of crowds, but that the data don't support concerns over large volumes of traffic.

He said there hasn't been a significant increase recently, but reiterated the advice that people should work from home wherever possible.

Progress will feel slow from here

Prof Nolan said that despite the positive trends, the incidence of the disease is still very high, and that it will take some time to get down to low levels.

Getting to about 500 cases a day in two weeks and to 200 by the end of the month would be a great achievement, he said.

Not the time for speculation on easing restrictions

On the topic of easing restrictions, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said now is not the time to be speculating as to what kinds of measures they think might be appropriate or safe.

We are still in excess of a thousand cases a day, he said, which is "simply too high a level of disease" to be speculating about what might happen when we get to the level of control we need to get to.

He said we still have a substantial amount of work to do for the remainder of February to get to a position where we might be able to contemplate measures that can be taken slowly and cautiously to begin to resume some social and economic activities.

He said we need to stay focused on the measures that we know we are undertaking successfully.

Initial AstraZeneca doses to be used for healthcare workers

Dr Holohan said they see the over-70s as one of the most significant groups in terms of vulnerability to the terrible effects of this disease.

He said those who are most at risk should get what they believe to be the most effective vaccine.


 

While some ignore rules, 'vast majority' are complying

On frustrations people may have about others who are ignoring the rules and holidaying abroad, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said there will always be a small proportion of the population that doesn't listen to the advice or do what is being asked of them, said Dr Ronan Glynn.

It must be very frustrating for people following the advice to see commentary around people travelling abroad, he said.

But the reality is that millions of people in Ireland are following the advice, and have brought us to where we are now.