Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said the public health advice remains for people not to travel abroad for a holiday unless they are fully vaccinated, and that it is the ambition of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to see travel resuming given vaccination levels among the population.
Asked at today's NPHET briefing about families going on summer holidays in situations where the parents have been vaccinated and their children have not, Dr Holohan said he would not be advising for such families not to travel.
This is because, at the moment, children are not being vaccinated in Ireland.
According to the latest Government advice, restrictions around international travel will begin to be eased from 19 July.
This will mean people will be permitted to travel abroad for non-essential reasons, subject to public health guidance and restrictions.
Dr Holohan said that if people engage in travel before they are vaccinated and mix with other people in other countries who are also not vaccinated, there is the potential for variants of concern to be transmitted.
If this were to happen, combined with the return of third-level education and indoor dining in the near future, it could lead to a situation where there is a "significant change in transmission" here, the Chief Medical Officer said.
'We'd like to see travel resuming because we are getting enough people vaccinated,' CMO Dr Tony Holohan has said.— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 17, 2021
He said 'don't travel unless you are vaccinated' will continue to be the public health message | Live updates: https://t.co/TBuvOmRSPb pic.twitter.com/FGQs08F7op
Asked about criticism about NPHET's stance on antigen testing, he said they were confident it should be used in many situations and they have already offered advice on where it should be used, including outbreak situations and situations where they think transmission is high.
He said they had also recommended its use in serial testing such as in meat processing facilities, and the HSE study of validation had shown that it missed around 50% of cases that PCR testing picked up where people are symptomatic.
Dr Holohan said NPHET has concerns about the use of antigen testing in asymptomatic populations because it isn't as effective as PCR testing.
His comments came as the Department of Health confirmed a further 373 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
In a statement, it said that 18 patients are currently in ICU. There are 54 patients in hospital.
Dr Holohan said: "We are now experiencing near elimination of Covid-19 in the vaccinated population.
"For the 50-65s who are in the process of receiving protection from full vaccination, incidence is dropping. Incidence is also reducing in most age groups, showing commendable compliance with public health measures as the vaccination programme is rolled out to more and more people."
He said that those who are fully vaccinated can "safely resume normal life".
We've seen a 'significant decline in all indicators of disease' over the last two weeks, Professor Philip Nolan has said.— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 17, 2021
He said the 14-day cumulative incidence rate is under 100 for the first time in 'many, many weeks' | Follow live updates: https://t.co/TBuvOmRSPb pic.twitter.com/c8uBzdwpWR
This means "meeting other fully vaccinated people from up to two households indoors without masks or social distancing, and meeting unvaccinated people from one other household indoors and without masks," Dr Holohan said.
He urged those who are awaiting vaccination to continue adhering to the public health messages like washing hands regularly, managing your contacts, avoiding crowds, wearing masks and socialising outdoors.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn told today's National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefing that the national 14-day incidence rate here is now 99.5 cases per 100,000 population.
While final confirmation on Covid-related deaths for May and June is unavailable due to the HSE ransomware attack, all available data suggests 'very few deaths... in April, May and June,' Professor Philip Nolan has said | Live updates: https://t.co/TBuvOmRSPb pic.twitter.com/S2RNKdUFM1— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 17, 2021
Giving a presentation at the briefing today, Chair of the Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said the thrust of his message was "very positive".
He said there has been a significant decline in all indicators of the disease over the past two weeks in particular.
The seven-day moving average of cases has gone from between 400 and 450 to 322 cases now, Professor Nolan said, describing it as a "significant fall".
He said there were over 60 people on average in hospital over the past week and just over 20 in intensive care and those numbers are also falling rapidly.
Professor Nolan said that there have been significant difficulties in reporting the number of deaths in people with Covid-19 in Ireland due to the recent cyber attack affecting the HSE.
Since 13 May, there have been an additional 38 deaths, he said.
On the subject of the Delta variant, Professor Nolan said it is reassuring that the number of cases identified is not increasing.
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Earlier, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said there is a "big increase in transmissibility" of this variant, he said, especially among household contacts.
Dr Henry said it is "inevitable" the number of cases here will increase, "given its behaviour in England and Wales".
He added that while it is to be welcomed that some hospitals are free of Covid, it should be treated with "a note of caution".
He has warned that people need to stick with public health guidelines and the vaccination programme to avoid a return to the the scale of the crisis in January, when the pandemic was "fire that was out of control".
HSE's Chief Clinical Lead Dr Colm Henry said there are 180 cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Ireland. He said there is a "big increase in transmissibility" of this variant, especially among household contacts | https://t.co/1sADuHj7sz pic.twitter.com/r8JkgQJ9mF— RTÉ News (@rtenews) June 17, 2021
CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said this week and the last few weeks have been "exceptional" in relation to the number of vaccines administered, at levels of approximately 300,000 doses given.
He said the supply lines for July are likely to "be hovering around 200,000 per week".
He said the rate of vaccination will slow in July.
"As we move into July we are dealing with just two supplies, which are Moderna and Pfizer and the Pfizer supply drops down.
"We no longer have usage for AstraZeneca or Janssen as we are moving down through the ages which NIAC have recommended their use.
"That combination means that (we will have) not the same supply level as we have had for this level, more graduated back to where it was.
"But still reasonably strong lines from those two supplies, so July will still be a strong month."
We're now down to 18 #COVID19 patients in ICU & a total of 54 inpatients in hospital. Our ICU & Covid ward teams deserve huge credit. In January we reached 2,020 inpatients & 212 in ICU. The care, compassion & resolve of these teams, and others, have saved many lives. @HSELive— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) June 17, 2021
HSE Lead for Covid-19 vaccination Damien McCallion said it is likely to be a "three to four week cycle" to vaccinate groups within the 30-39 year age bracket.
There are approximately 710,000 people in this age group.
Mr McCallion said they still have some people in their 50s and 60s registering for their vaccine.
He said that a substantial number of people are "coming in after the campaign for their age group".
He said: "We are always trying to encourage people."
In Northern Ireland, 179 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported, and no further deaths.