Covid-19: 1,049 new cases confirmed, 310 patients in hospital

Children under 12 unlikely to get vaccines this year, Donnelly says

Minister for Health  Stephen Donnelly defended changes to the contact tracing system in schools. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly defended changes to the contact tracing system in schools. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A further 1,049 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded by the Department of Health in the past 24 hours.

There were 310 patients in hospital with the virus at 8am on Monday, with 66 of those treated in intensive care.

The figures came after Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed that children between the age of five and 11 are unlikely to be eligible for vaccination this year.

Mr Donnelly also said that the booster programme will begin this week for those who are immunocompromised with those above 80 and those in nursing homes being offered a third dose from next week onwards.

Asked about signals that children over the age of five will be offered Covid-19 vaccines, Mr Donnelly said the issue is being examined but he indicated a decision is not imminent.

“We are looking at that at the moment obviously. No recommendation has come in on that, the conversations that the Chief Medical Officer and I have had is that we wouldn’t be expecting anything like that in this calendar year. We will keep that under very close review.”

The Minister also defended changes to the contact tracing system in schools. From today, there will be an end to contact tracing of asymptomatic cases in the classroom.

Under the changes, children under 13 who are close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases in schools or childcare will no longer be required to self-isolate from September 27th if they are symptom-free.

Mr Donnelly said the decision was taken on foot of “the very best advice from the Nphet”.

“It is something that the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and I have discussed at great length” he said, adding that the “the recommendation is coming because of such encouraging results from the schools”.

“So obviously we had a huge number of students and teachers go back and what we are seeing is that the rate of infection is stable and many people are staying it is actually falling. Positivity has been low and remains low and what it looks like is that the level of infection within the schools is in fact lower for that age group than outside the schools.”

He also gave details on the State’s booster vaccination campaign.

“We are starting this week with the immunocompromised. The advice I have is that next week we will be starting with the third dose in nursing homes and for those who are aged 80 and above. The Niac [National Immunisation Advisory Committee] are considering other age groups at the moment. I won’t be surprised if I get a recommendation to reduce that, certainly I know it is something that other countries are looking at at the moment.

Pop-up Vaccinations

“ This week as well we are doing pop-ups in the colleges, we have had fantastic response from students in college. I would just have an ask for anyone who in college who has not got around to getting vaccinated yet, please avail of this service.”

The pop-up vaccination clinics are being offered by the HSE at 15 colleges campuses from Monday as thousands of first years begin third level.

The clinics will be offering the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine and will provide first or second doses and will be provided to students and staff.

The pop-up clinics will be in: University College Cork; NUI Galway; Trinity College Dublin; University of Limerick; Dublin City University; Maynooth University; Munster Technological University Cork; Mary Immaculate College; Royal College of Surgeons Ireland; National College of Art and Design; Athlone Institute of Technology (Technological University of the Shannon from 1 October); Limerick Institute of Technology (Technological University of the Shannon from October 1st); TU Dublin (All 3 campuses - Blanchardstown, Grangegorman, Tallaght). In addition, clinics operating in UCD, Letterkenny, Sligo and Waterford Institutes of Technology will be open to students and staff . Times and locations can be found on the HSE website.Meanwhile the Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid said is planning for a transition phase in its treatment of Covid.

Transition phase

Mr Reid said the focus would now be on planning for a transition phase, how to move from pandemic to endemic, how to monitor and assess symptoms and maintain surveillance of outbreaks.

Mr Reid said part of the transition would also include treatment of long Covid, he added.

Mr Reid also defended the decision to allow primary children who are close contacts to attend school if they are asymptomatic from Monday.

There were lower levels of transmission of the virus in schools, he told Newstalk Breakfast which meant that “on the balance of risk” it was safer for children to be at school.

The level of transmission in schools was only five percent while it was 25 percent in households, he added. Having significant numbers of children out of school was a much higher risk for their wellbeing.

On the issue of public consultants also operating in the private health system, Mr Reid saidone of the lessons learned during the pandemic was that the private health service was part of the healthcare system. “Private is part of the system and we have to respect it.”

Mr Reid said that the HSE will meet the Sláintecare advisory group, probably the middle of this week, and that the HSE was determined to drive through the changes. “There will have to be significant reforms to have impact.”

Mr Reid said the way in which the HSE responded to the challenges of the last 18 months should reassure people.

It was “simply not true” to say that the HSE was too big or not capable of reform.