Tony Holohan: Message to people to work from home is “really not getting through”
“People will tell you stories about car parks are full, canteens are full in workplace settings… so people are really not listening to this message.”
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan says that some people “are really not listening” to the message to work from home unless it is not possible to do so amid a recent increase in the number of cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
At a briefing on Thursday evening, where a further 429 cases of Covid-19 and four deaths were reported, Holohan said that progress in reducing transmission of the virus had “stalled” in the last week.
Elaborating on the reasons why, Holohan pointed to anecdotal evidence that people who can work from home were continuing to travel to the workplace.
He said that the government’s message for employees under Level 5 restrictions – to work from home unless providing an essential service for which your physical presence is required – “really hasn’t gotten through”.
“We still have a very high degree of suppression of the infection in the population,” Holohan said.
“That can only come by large numbers of people following the public health advice, and our basic public health advice at the moment is for people to stay at home, except in certain situations.
“That’s leaving the home for the purposes of essential work, working from home – I think this message really hasn’t gotten through.
“I mean you look at the traffic, you look at what’s going on in workplaces. People will tell you stories about car parks are full, canteens are full in workplace settings, so people are really not listening to this message and they’re meeting up unnecessarily.”
“It’s absolutely, clearly understood that not everybody is in a workplace situation where they can work from home,” Holohan added.
“But clearly many, many people who are in situations where they can work from home are choosing not to do so and coming into the workplace and meeting up and having engagements that are leading to transmission opportunities.”
At the briefing on Thursday, Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said that the R number – which indicates the number of people someone with Covid-19 could go on to infect – had dropped to as low as 0.6 this month, but has now increased to an estimated figure of somewhere between 0-7 and 0.9.
"The data strongly suggests that a small, recent increase in the level of social contacts has led to the increase in reproduction number we see now,” Nolan said.
“A small additional effort to reduce our contacts will make a big difference to reduce disease incidence before 1 December.”