Coronavirus: Two further deaths, 514 new cases reported in the State

Donnelly rejects call to stop cross-Border travel following spike in Donegal case numbers

By Friday, 1,799,190 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered: 1,305,178 first doses and 494,012 second doses.  File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

By Friday, 1,799,190 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered: 1,305,178 first doses and 494,012 second doses. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A further two deaths of Covid-19 patients have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). This brings to 4,921 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Nphet also reported 514 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 252,809 the total number of cases in the Republic.

The median age of cases is 28 years and 75 per cent are under 45. Today, 259 cases were men and 248 were women.

The five-day moving average of cases is 432.

On Sunday morning, 116 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, up six on the previous day. This included 31 patients in ICU, down two. There were 11 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

The figure of 116 patients is the lowest number for people hospitalised with the virus since late September 2020.

By Friday, 1,799,190 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered: 1,305,178 first doses and 494,012 second doses.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (left) and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photographs: Niall Carson/PA Wire and Gareth Chaney/Collins
Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann (left) and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photographs: Niall Carson/PA Wire and Gareth Chaney/Collins

Earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly rejected a call by the North’s health minister to stop cross-Border travel due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Donegal.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann wrote to Mr Donnelly last week saying non-essential travel across the Border must be stopped “by enforcement if required”.

However, Mr Donnelly said on Sunday the epidemiological situation “wouldn’t warrant that,” and added there were no plans to change the easing of inter-county travel from Monday. “We have an open Border and I don’t want to see that change.”

Asked on RTÉ’s This Week programme about high rates of infection in Co Donegal, Mr Donnelly said rates were declining as people in the country were “doing the right thing”.

Mr Donnelly said he has yet to reply to Mr Swann but planned to talk to him next week.

Over the past week, incidence has fallen from over 300 cases per 100,000 people to 268 and is continuing to reduce, he pointed out.

There will shortly be an unwanted excess of vaccines due to limitations on the use of the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines among younger people, according to the minister.

The excess would be for a short period of time only but is “something we don’t want,” he said.

The Department of Health is expecting a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee next week on whether the use of the two vaccines could be extended to younger age groups. At present, they are restricted to over-50s due to a global issue with very rare blood clots.

While declining to say whether he personally was in favour of lowering the age threshold, Mr Donnelly said it was important the vaccines were not “left on the shelf”.

In the longer time, Ireland will have an issue with excess vaccines, he pointed out, as the Government has agreements to purchase 18 million doses.

Spare doses should be used for booster shots or donated to parts of the world with lower availability of vaccines, he suggested.

‘Really positive summer’

Mr Donnelly said he would “love” to see spectators attending all-Ireland finals in Croke Park this summer, but added it was not possible to make “definitive statements” at this point.

The country is looking at “a really, really positive summer” given the stable state of the disease and accelerating vaccination rates, he predicted.

Although there remains some fear that case rates could increase again, cases and average contacts had remained steady over the past weeks as measures were eased.

This was because people are “sticking with the basic measures” such as mask-wearing and meeting outdoors and this was having “a bit effect,” he said.

The target of vaccinating up to 450,000 people a week would be reached in June, he said. Last week, 230,000 people were immunised, including over 50,000 on Friday, the busiest day yet for the rollout.

Mr Donnelly said the accelerated programme would be led by vaccination centres and GPs but he also wanted to see a more prominent role for pharmacists, particularly in administering the one-dose Janssen vaccine.

By Friday, 1,799,190 doses had been administered, including 1,305,178 first doses and 494,012 second doses. Just 137 doses of the Janssen vaccine have been administered so far, the HSE’s vaccine tracker shows.

Meanwhile, the HSE is operating the following walk-in centres for Covid-19 testing on Sunday: Drumalee, Co Cavan; Dunmanway, Co Cork; Letterkenny, Co Donegal; Blanchardstown and Ballymun, Dublin; Galway Airport; Tralee, Co Kerry; Newbridge, Co. Kildare; Castlebar, Co. Mayo; Clonminch, Co. Offaly; Castlerea, Co Roscommon; Nenagh, Co Tipperary; Kilcohan, Waterford; Mullingar, Co Westmeath; Wexford; and Convoy, Co Donegal.

Anyone turning up for testing requires photo ID and a mobile phone number.

In the North, there were no new deaths related to Covid-19 reported on Sunday, with the total death toll since the start of the pandemic remaining at 2,147.

There were a further 98 people who tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 120,946.

Nearly 1.5 million (1,460,425) vaccine jabs have been administered, 972,597 of which were first doses and 487,828 of them second inoculations.

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