Concern Covid-19 situation will ‘deteriorate further’ as 3,726 new cases confirmed

Impact on hospitals very serious says Minister as he proposes rollover of emergency health provisions

There were 493 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Tuesday morning, with 90 of those in ICU

There were 493 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Tuesday morning, with 90 of those in ICU

 

The Department of Health has reported 3,726 new cases of Covid-19. The number of patients being treated in hospital was 493 as of 8am on Tuesday, it said, with 90 in ICU.

The figure represents the highest number of cases recorded in one day since January 14th, when 3,955 cases were reported.

Despite this latest rise in numbers, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that “we have to be concerned that things will deteriorate further”.

He said the situation was very serious and having an impact on hospitals which were filling up.

Mr Donnelly was speaking in the Dáil as he introduced proposals for a rollover of emergency health provisions for another three months until February 9th. The measures are due to expire on November 9th.

He criticised opposition parties and TDs for opposing the measures claiming they were “reckless” and insisting that the use of the powers was proportionate.

“This evening more than 3,700 cases are going to be announced, we have hospitals that are getting fuller with Covid patients as a result of this and as a result of people having to go into ICUs, elective surgery for other men, women and children is being cancelled,” he said.

He said TDs tell the Dáil they want to protect healthcare workers but many planned to vote against the legislation which would protect them.

“I do think it’s reckless and I say that with respect,” he added.

He sought Dáil approval for the extension of the emergency legislation which provides emergency powers requiring Covid-19 vaccination passes, face masks and gives gardai enforcement powers for breaches including imposing fixed penalty notices and powers of arrest.

The provisions will be voted on, on Wednesday evening

Opposition TDs accused the Minister of being disrespectful in accusing them of being reckless. A number of TDs hit out at the Minister’s claim and Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Michael McNamara sharply criticised the Minister with Mr Healy-Rae describing his remarks as “undemocratic”.

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane, whose party will also vote against the extension of the provisions, said the measures were draconian and no longer necessary and the situations was now “completely different” from when they were first introduced. He rejected “in principle” the need to extend them almost two years into the pandemic.

“I think the time has come where they are no longer necessary,” he said.

His party colleague Thomas Gould said they should not be expected to sign a “blank cheque” to suspend normal parliamentary oversight.

Labour finance spokesman Ged Nash said agreed the emergency powers should be extended because a very difficult winter is expected.

They needed to take “responsible actions to help save lives” and measures such as wearing masks would help tackle the spread of the virus.

Social Democrats joint leader Roisin Shortall said the regulations should be first brought to the Dail to be examined and there were draconian powers in place which affected people’s civil liberties.

‘Circulating widely’

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has said that “Covid-19 is circulating widely in our community,” but insisted that “ we have the tools to limit its spread”.

“We know that vaccination is very successful at preventing severe illness and hospitalisation and I urge anyone who still needs to get their Covid vaccine to do so.”

Dr Holohan outlined steps the public can take to mitigate the spread further, even within a highly vaccinated population.

“Even when vaccinated, we still need to practise basic public health interventions – washing our hands, opening windows, wearing masks and most importantly, staying home when we have symptoms. These simple measures are very successful at breaking the chains of transmission of this disease.

“As we practise all elements of the public health advice, we keep ourselves, and our communities safe.”

The latest figures were announced hours after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the recent rise in the number of cases was “very concerning” and that it could not be guaranteed restrictions would not be reintroduced.

Mr Martin said modelling from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has suggested the current rise in cases would peak at the end of November.

Speaking from Cop26 in Glasgow, Mr Martin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the use of antigen testing was increasing and if people collectively remained cautious “we can avoid the need to have a backward return to restrictions”.

He said he had spoken to Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennet who told him that Israel’s booster campaign had been very successful and impactful on the latest wave of the virus there.

“No one can guarantee anything,” Mr Martin said. He added that Covid-19 vaccines work and appealed to anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so to avoid severe illness.

In the North, two more people with Covid-19 have died the Department of Health there reported on Tuesday. A further 1,114 cases of the virus were confirmed.

A total of 381 people are being treated for Covid-19 in the North’s hospitals, with 36 in intensive care.

Boosters

Meanwhile, Covid-19 vaccine booster shots are to be given to healthcare workers from next weekend.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly approved the extension of the booster programme to healthcare workers on foot of a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on Monday.

“Niac has advised that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used [for the boosters] regardless of the initial vaccine course [mRNA or adenoviral vaccine],” Mr Donnelly said.

UCD virologist Dr Gerald Barry has said the country has been “backed into a corner” and that booster vaccines will be necessary for everyone over the age of 12.

“I don’t see any other way to reduce cases,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

The current public health policies were not able to “keep a lid” on the number of cases and booster vaccines were being used to control infection rates, he said.

Dr Barry said the main reason healthcare workers were going to receive booster vaccines was to protect them from infection so they could continue to work and they were not necessary to protect them from serious illness.

This was a good reason for a booster campaign, he said but added one could argue if better public health policies were in place then such a campaign would not be necessary.

Dr Barry said for healthcare workers who had been vaccinated last December or January, their immunity would have begun to wane during the summer, but it was only now that a booster campaign was being discussed because of the rise in cases.

If the number of cases in the community was being controlled then there would not be a need for booster and simple measures such as increased antigen testing, easier access to PCR testing and a greater focus on ventilation were simple measures that could be introduced, he said.

Dr Barry said that boosters would be required “to get us through this winter” but added the country could be entering a cycle of booster vaccinations and that he was worried if the public would accept that.

Government plan

Asked during an interview on Prime Time on Tuesday evening, what the Government’s plan was to deal with rising case numbers, Mr Donnelly said: “We’re accelerating with booster vaccines. We’re going to be introducing serial testing again in nursing homes. The Covid Pass obviously has been extended.

“The flu vaccine programme is rolling out. We’ve greatly expanded rapid testing. We’re increasing PCR testing. So there’s a lot of things the government is doing that we know can and will work,” he said.

Asked whether or not all adults over the age of 18 should receive booster shots, Mr Donnelly said this was something the Government “can look at”.

While Ireland has been “leading the way” on vaccinations, 7 per cent to date had chosen not to get vaccinated, and that 7 per cent “represented half the Covid hospital cases, and about 60 per cent of the ICU cases.”

“It’s so important that 7 per cent now takes the opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.

Pressed on whether Ireland will have to bring in more extreme restrictions later rather than bringing smaller ones in now to try to stall climbing Covid-19 figures, Donnelly said: “That’s not the focus right now. Because right now, that’s not what’s needed.”

“The country has gone through a huge amount of pain and suffering and sacrifice for us to be able to open up our country,” he said.

The people in the entertainment sector including artists, musicians or singers had “been through so much” and “finally got a chance to breathe again and to defend it and to do what they do,” he added.

Mr Donnelly said personal responsibility on individuals included taking action when going into a premises where consumers are not asked for a Covid pass or ID. Patrons should leave venues who “put safety at risk”.