Covid-19: 61 deaths and 2,488 new cases reported
‘Game changer’ vaccine not available until mid-February, Taoiseach says
The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will only be available from mid-February after it is approved by the European Medicines Agency later this month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
People have been urged not to meet up with friends or loved ones unless they are caring for them after the Department of Health was notified of a further 61 deaths from Covid-19.
Another 2,488 cases of the virus were reported on Wednesday.
There has now been a total of 2,768 Covid-19 related deaths in the Republic, while the number of confirmed cases stands at 179,324.
Of the deaths reported on Wednesday, 58 of them occurred in January. The median age of those who died was 83 and the age range was 41 to 100 years.
As of 2pm on Wednesday, there were 1,923 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 210 were in intensive care at 11am. There have been a further 85 hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Some 726 of the cases were identified in Dublin, while there were 314 in Cork; 148 in Galway; 133 in Limerick; 130 in Meath. The remaining 1,037 cases were spread across all other counties.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the figures illustrated that people must continue to adhere to public health restrictions.
“The number of cases and deaths that we are reporting today and the persisting high incidence rate of Covid-19 across the country shows that we cannot underestimate the highly infectious nature of this disease and the impact that it can have on families and communities,” he said.
“The virus spreads through close contacts, through the congregation of people. We need everyone to stay at home as much as possible, and to work from home, where possible. You should not meet up with friends or loved ones, unless you are caring for them,” he said.
“If you go out for exercise, you need to stay within 5km from your home, wear a face covering where appropriate and wash your hands when you return home to protect yourself from infection.
“If you are Covid positive you should self-isolate and stay at home, in your room, avoiding contact with other people. This is to protect the other people that you live with.”
Of the cases notified on Wednesday, 1,090 are men while 1,383 are women. Just over half are under 45 years of age. The median age is 44 years old.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Sunday that discussions had been underway to seek supplies in advance of approval to avoid delays in distribution. But Mr Martin told the Dáil that approval of the Astra Zeneca vaccine “should be on January 29th” for delivery in mid-February.
The Taoiseach told Independent TD Michael Lowry that the vaccine will be a “key game-changer” and the roll-out programme will be “ramped up” with comprehensive supplies expected in February, March and April of the UK vaccine and other vaccines.
Mr Lowry called for carers and community nurses, including those employed by private companies, to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination. He said that if elderly people living at home are diagnosed with coronavirus, the carers and nurses are still required to provide care to those patients.
The Tipperary TD said the rollout of the vaccine lacks scale and ambition and it was “sluggish”. He added that “we need to break the cycle of opening and closing and the only lasting solution is inoculation”.
‘Only limiting factor’
Mr Martin insisted that people should have confidence in the vaccination programme. “The only limiting factor is supply of the vaccine.”
He understood that 152,000 vaccines had been received and “by next Sunday 142,000 of those will have been administered. We are literally getting the vaccine out as we are getting them in”.
Frontline hospital workers and residents and staff of long-term care were the initial priority but he would take on board Mr Lowry’s representations.
Mr Martin also insisted that the advice from the chief medical officer and National Public Health Emergency Team “has been consistently against a zero-Covid approach”.
Rise TD Paul Murphy called on the Taoiseach to “finally abandon your failed living with Covid strategy which has resulted in yo-yo lockdowns”.
“Instead of delivering us a fourth and fifth lockdown before we have sufficient vaccination, will you seek to ensure this is the last lockdown by implementing a zero Covid strategy to eliminate community transmission while investing in find, trace and isolate,” he said.
The Taoiseach said he did not believe they could achieve a zero-Covid strategy because sealing the Border was likely the only way to achieve it and that was impossible.