Coronavirus: 1,126 new cases in the State, 22 people in ICU

Foley seeks to ‘reassure parents’ that schools are expected to open in September

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times

HSE chief executive Paul Reid. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell/ The Irish Times

 

A further 1,126 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the State on Sunday, the Department of Health reported, amid warnings over rising hospitalisations.

There are 123 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 22 are in ICU.

The latest figures follow confirmation from Minister for Education Norma Foley that schools are expected to open as normal in September.

Ms Foley is to brief Cabinet on Tuesday about additional funding for schools to put in place all necessary Covid-19 prevention measures to ensure an on-schedule re-opening.

She said in a statement that she wanted to “reassure parents and guardians that plans are in place to allow for the reopening of schools in line with the infection prevention measures that have been in place in our schools”.

Ms Foley said it was a Department of Education priority to support schools “to ensure this can take place in line with their normal planned re-opening times”.

The Minister issued the statement on Sunday morning in the wake of media reports over concerns about the potential impact of rising numbers of Covid-19 cases to delay the re-opening of schools and third-level colleges.

Ms Foley said that “as has been the case throughout the pandemic the reopening will be carried out in close consultation with Public Health”.

She said: “Schools will continue to be supported in terms of the additional resources necessary to provide for these measures and I will update Cabinet on these plans on Tuesday morning”.

The Minister added that “the aim of all of the Covid-19 infection prevention and control measures that have been put in place for schools is to support schools to operate safely and prevent the introduction of Covid-19 and also the onward of transmission of Covid-19 among the school community. These measures protect pupils, their parents and school staff.”

Geriatrician Dr Ronan Collins on Sunday said that when the vast majority of the seriously at-risk population are vaccinated, that outweighs the remaining risk of reopening schools.

Children

Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor show the Tallaght hospital physician said “the risk to children is very, very low”.

It was, he said, the “traditional narrative of what happens during cold season, flu season, gastroenteritis season, that children very often can be the vectors”.

“But in a situation where you have the vast majority of the seriously at-risk population vaccinated and who are going to be as safe as we can make them, then you cannot really sacrifice the development and education of children because the benefits of educating children outweigh what risks might remain.”

Consultant microbiologist Dr Anna-Rose Prior said that in Ireland since vaccination was introduced the rate of infection in older and vulnerable people has plummeted and the death rate has plummeted.

Speaking on the same programme she said: “The main thing is, is the vaccine doing what it says on the tin? Is it stopping them ending up in hospital, is it stopping them ending up in ICU? Of course a small proportion will end up in ICU but overall our absolute numbers have reduced. And the vaccine is really doing what it is meant to do.”

Dr Prior said there is a tolerance of higher Covid numbers because of vaccination.

Earlier on Sunday, Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid said almost 70 per cent of adults are now fully vaccinated with 83 per cent partially vaccinated.

In a tweet on Sunday morning Mr Reid warned, however, of rising numbers of people being hospitalised with Covid-19.

In the tweet he said “as hospitality, society & the economy opens up further, let’s all embrace it safely and make it work”.

Under the draft guidelines published late on Friday night, anyone who is fully vaccinated will be able dine indoors accompanied by their unvaccinated children. Restaurants and pubs can reopen indoors from next Monday, July 26th.

Final regulations are expected to be signed off on Sunday, according to a statement from Fáilte Ireland, but draft operational guidelines for the sector were published late on Friday.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, nearly half of under-30s have not been vaccinated as the vaccination programme there prepares to wind down in the coming weeks.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health said the number of people overall who have received both doses broke through the one million mark over the weekend. About 70 per cent of the adult population is now fully vaccinated.

While uptake among older age groups was “exceptional”, only 56 per cent of those aged under 30 who are eligible for inoculation have taken up the offer, according to Patricia Donnelly, who heads the North’s vaccination programme.

“There has been a lot of hard work and determination behind this programme and we know we are not at the finish line yet,” she warned.

Last week, Stormont Minister for Health Robin Swann said mass vaccinations will wind down in the coming weeks as large arenas and centres “can’t be commandeered” forever and health staff were badly needed back at normal duties.

First doses will end at the centres on July 31st.

On Sunday, two more deaths linked to Covid-19 were reported in the North, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 2,170.

Another 1,264 positive cases were reported. Since the outbreak began, there have been a total of 148,484 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Over the weekend, the number of people fully vaccinated with two doses reached 1,006,725. Some 1,193,854 people have had their first dose.

Latest figures show 163 in hospital with Covid 19, 16 of whom are in intensive care.

Notwithstanding the lower uptake among younger people, Mr Swann said the vaccination programme has been an “outstanding success to date”.