Coronavirus: 1,703 more cases as Taoiseach urges people to ‘stay with’ reopening timelines

HSE runs further walk-in clinics as Ireland leads EU table for highest incidence of virus

Taoiseach Micheál Martin shows his Covid Certificate  at Taste of Dublin. Photograph: Julien Behal.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin shows his Covid Certificate at Taste of Dublin. Photograph: Julien Behal.

 

Ireland must continue to be vigilant regarding Covid-19 even though people can take encouragement from the fact that the spread of the disease seems to be on a downward trajectory, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

The Taoiseach was speaking on Saturday as 1,703 new cases of Covid-19 were reported by the Department of Health. The number of patients being treated in hospital was 363, with 52 in ICU.

Mr Martin said the next number of weeks would be critical as Ireland continues towards the re-opening of society and the economy but the signs so far appeared to be encouraging with the latest indicators all suggesting good progress is being made in the return to economic activity.

“It’s been a very significant week in terms of announcements in terms of re-opening of society in terms of Covid 19 - we can take some heart that levels may be on a downward trajectory - that said, we will have monitor the impact of school openings in the context of the Delta variant,” he said.

“But it is extremely important we remain vigilant as a society and that we can progress in terms of the steps that are now being laid out and the dates , September 6th, September 20th and ultimately, October 20th in terms of the easing of restrictions and the re-opening of society and the economy.”

Speaking at Haulbowline Naval Base in Cork where he was attending a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Naval Service, Mr Martin said the various indicators suggested Ireland was on the road to economic recovery as society continues to open up.

“All the signals are that we are currently enjoying an economic bounce or rebound from Covid as we re-open key parts of the economy in terms of GDP figures, in terms of employment creation and unemployment reduction, in terms of less of a deficit so far,” he said.

“Those are all good signs but we have focused as a country and we have to continue to protect people and I would just urge people to stay with this, in line with the timelines that we have now set in terms of the re-opening plan itself.”

Vaccination

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the easing of Covid-19 restrictions is set to go ahead as planned on Monday despite Ireland leaping to the top of the European table for the highest incidence of the virus.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar said the vaccination of people under 35 is “really working now”, adding: “All ok for next stage of re-opening on Monday”.

“Cases have plateaued/falling. Rise in patients in hospital and ICU slowing.”

From next Monday, restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings are being eased, though not lifted entirely.

Organised indoor events and mass gatherings can be held at 60 per cent of venue capacity, where all those attending are either fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months.

Live music will be permitted at weddings, although the cap on numbers will remain at 100 guests.

Religious ceremonies can proceed at 50 per cent venue capacity, regardless of immunity status of attendees.

September 20th is earmarked for a return to workplace on a phased basis while October 22nd marks the date for the planned removal of most other restrictions, moving to model of personal responsibility.

In its latest report, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) found Ireland has the highest incidence of Covid-19 in the European Union. With a 14-day incidence of 504 cases per 100,000 people, Ireland has taken the mantle of Europe’s national “hotspot” for Covid infections from Cyprus, which has an incidence of 496.

Meanwhile, there has been a surge in demand for close contact testing in schools since the resumption of classes in recent days, the Health Service Executive has said.

Niamh O’Beirne, head of the HSE’s testing and tracing service, said close contacts are being tested in 631 schools since reopening began last week.

Pupils at more than 100 primary schools have been tested every day since Tuesday of this week, and 75 secondary schools had students tested on Thursday. By lunchtime on Friday, 29 secondary schools had been earmarked for close contact testing, with demand on the service increasing as more schools resume teaching.

This compares to an average of 45 schools per day requiring close contact tracing in May, the last time both primary and secondary schools were open.

A view of the walk in vaccination centre at O’Reilly Hall, UCD. Photograph: Tom Honan
A view of the walk in vaccination centre at O’Reilly Hall, UCD. Photograph: Tom Honan

The HSE has advised that further walk-in vaccinations are available at clinics nationwide over the weekend.

Anyone eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can receive a first or second dose without an appointment at walk-in clinics which are scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

Walk-in clinics are open for anyone aged 12 and older. Children aged 12 to 15 must attend with their parent or guardian.

Members of the public who received a first dose of AstraZeneca can now receive an mRNA (Pfizer/Moderna) vaccine as their second dose.

However, Niac recommends that receiving two doses of the same vaccine are preferred for all age groups, where possible.

Details on walk-in vaccination centres operating over the weekend can be found on the HSE website: hse.ie.