Coronavirus: 1,423 more cases as Holohan hails benefits of vaccine

North’s health service will ‘topple over’ without action, says O’Neill

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: ‘Covid-19 vaccines are providing very effective protection from severe illness and have fundamentally changed the risk profile of Covid-19 in Ireland’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: ‘Covid-19 vaccines are providing very effective protection from severe illness and have fundamentally changed the risk profile of Covid-19 in Ireland’. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

A further 1,423 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the State, the Department of Health said on Tuesday.

As of 8am on Tuesday, 286 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 63 were in ICU.

In a statement accompanying the latest data, Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the department, said: “Covid-19 vaccines are providing very effective protection from severe illness and have fundamentally changed the risk profile of Covid-19 in Ireland. It is important that all of us receive our Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to us.

“Once again today, we see more elements of our society and economy reopen. If you are fully protected through vaccination, then you can have confidence that your vaccination, and your continued adherence to the public health advice appropriate to each environment, is the best way you can protect yourself from Covid-19,” he said.

“If you display cold or flu like symptoms like cough, fever, headache, sore throat and blocked or runny nose, self-isolate immediately. Please do not meet up with others or attend events, work or school. Arrange a PCR test through the HSE as soon as possible.”

In Northern Ireland, there was a more pessimistic message from the Deputy First Minister who said the North’s health service would “topple over” unless immediate action was taken to reduce the infection rate.

Michelle O’Neill was speaking during a visit to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast alongside the First Minister, Paul Givan, on Tuesday.

She said staff were “begging for help” and were “fearful” for a “difficult winter” ahead.

“What we heard repeatedly today is that the staff here are exhausted, they are physically and mentally exhausted, they’re extremely anxious for the winter months ahead and what that will bring,” Ms O’Neill said.

“It’s very clear that the health service is about to topple over if we do not take immediate action to support the health service staff, the service itself, but also to stop the spread of the virus.”

The deaths of four more people with Covid-19 were reported by the North’s Department of Health on Tuesday, and 1,145 new cases of the virus.

A total of 384 patients are receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19, with 32 in intensive care. Northern Ireland’s hospitals were operating at 102 per cent occupancy on Tuesday.

Restrictions

The Northern Executive is due to meet on Thursday to discuss the remaining Covid-19 restrictions and consider plans to deal with a winter surge of the virus.

Mr Givan, who had previously said he wanted to see all restrictions removed by the end of September, told reporters he hoped there would be “some progress” but added, “I don’t anticipate seeing all of the restrictions being lifted.”

He said the Executive’s approach to coming out of lockdown had been to take “gradual measures” and while “other jurisdictions held the line and then allowed everything to reopen, and we have taken an approach which has been measured, and on Thursday we will take the same approach.”

He added that there were “multiple reasons as to why our hospitals are under pressure, Covid is one of them and we need to take balanced decisions, and we will take that approach as a party coming into Thursday, and I would hope that we can make some progress which is proportionate to the level of the risks.”

Both Ms O’Neill and the North’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann, have advocated a cautious approach and said on Monday they could not rule out the prospect of further lockdowns.

“I’ve always been very open enough to say that I never rule out anything, I keep everything on the table, I think that’s the prudent way to proceed, it’s also the honest way to proceed,” the Deputy First Minister said on Tuesday.

“However, I don’t want to get to a scenario where you have to have a circuit-breaker or lockdown – I want to avoid that,” she said.

Asked whether nightclubs will get a road map for reopening on Thursday, she responded: “I don’t expect to see us being able to make huge strides forward in terms of that. I understand the hospitality sector have been hardest hit and we need to do all we can to support them.”

Additional reporting – PA

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