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26 Sept 2022

HSE says winter 'twindemic' of Covid-19 and flu possible but not certain

HSE says winter 'twindemic' of Covid-19 and flu possible but not certain

There is a possibility that Ireland could face a "twindemic" of Covid-19 and flu this winter, according to the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer, Colm Henry.

He urged people to sign up to the Covid booster vaccine, which he said it is in the interest of not just individuals, but the population at large. He said it also protects the health system.

Earlier this week, Dr Fergal Hickey, president of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine warned of a 'health service Armageddon this winter' 

However, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Thursday, Dr Henry said while the Omicron variant wreaked havoc over the last few months, there is a higher degree of immunity now because of that surge that "raged" through the population.

"I think people are right to be concerned. It's possible, but by no means certain," he said of predictions of the health service being over run this winter. 

There is also a high degree of protection through vaccination, he added and appealed to the public to embrace the Covid and influenza jab campaigns.

Dr Henry also acknowledged there is not the same incentive among everyone to get a Covid booster compared to before, when there was a "fear" of serious illness or a higher appreciation of the benefits of having a vaccination.

However, Dr Henry added that the winter plan will help to reduce the number of people - with a specific focus on older people - attending emergency departments.

The pandemic prompted an "acceleration" of increasing capacity in the hospital system, he said, which now can be built upon through further focus on "alternative access" to healthcare.

"During the pandemic we've accelerated what was needed in the system, which greatly lacked capacity in terms of additional hospital beds," he said.

"We've also accelerated staffing in our emergency departments to introduce what we called safe staffing levels.

"Rather than having this kind of discussion year-on-year, we look at alternative access to health care," Dr Henry said.

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