Covid-19: Holohan insists vaccines ‘road out of pandemic’ as 1,314 cases reported

Government discussing guidelines with hospitality industry amid claims of inconsistency

People queuing while waiting for the Covid-19 vaccine outside Croke Park, Dublin on Monday. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

People queuing while waiting for the Covid-19 vaccine outside Croke Park, Dublin on Monday. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

A further 1,314 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been reported in the State.

The Department of Health said that as of 8am on Wednesday, 187 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 30 were in intensive care units.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “It is important to remember that infections in vaccinated people do not mean that vaccines do not work. While no vaccine is 100 per cent effective in this way, these breakthrough infections that occur are generally much less severe, and they are associated with less risk of hospitalisation. Vaccines work.

“Not only are the Covid-19 vaccines available to you in Ireland all highly effective and very safe, but they are our road out of this pandemic. Getting vaccinated is an important preventative tool personally, but it is also an act of solidarity from an individual to wider society – an act that keeps one another protected, and ensures the continued safe reopening of our society and economy.”

The latest figures come as the Government has been forced to clarify the rules on outdoor events in the wake of controversy over a gathering held by former minister Katherine Zappone.

Guidelines on outdoor events will need to be updated “to ensure that people have clarity” on the gatherings, the Government conceded.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the Government Press Office said that advice from the Attorney General was that organised events and gatherings could take place for up to 200 people “including social, recreational, exercise, cultural, entertainment or community events”.

“Further updates will be made to the guidelines to ensure that people have clarity about how organised outdoor events may operate into the future.”

The statement follows the decision by Ms Zappone to step back from her role as special envoy for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, following controversy over the manner of her appointment and a social event she arranged for 50 people at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin.

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell defended the decision to allow priests proceed with Confirmations and First Communions in defiance of Covid-related guidelines.

He said there were regular gatherings in bars, restaurants and hotels but “the only gathering that seems to cause any risk is a parent taking their child along to receive the sacrament of confirmation and that’s simply not credible.”

Representatives of the hospitality industry are meeting Government officials today to discuss the current public health guidelines. The Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said on Tuesday his organisation was seeking an end to the 11.30pm Covid-19 closing time rule from September.

He said the RAI was seeking a roadmap for the relaxation of all guidelines and restrictions as the vaccination rollout approaches 80 to 85 per cent of adults: “We don’t want to have another 11th-hour cliff-edge at the end of August.”

Meanwhile, about 1 million people are likely to be targeted for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots in the State’s first sweep of the population over autumn and winter.

Under initial advice given by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, healthcare workers, the over-80s, residents of care facilities aged 65 and above, and those with certain medical conditions associated with suboptimal responses to the vaccines are to be targeted first.

However, the World Health Organisation on Wednesday called for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September.

The move was to enable that at least 10 per cent of the population of every country was vaccinated, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

In Northern Ireland, Covid-19 vaccines are to be made available to all 16- and 17-year-olds from Friday.

The North’s Department of Health made the announcement following a recommendation from the British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

From this Friday, walk-in vaccination centres will be providing first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for this age group.

An online booking platform will also be available in the coming days. ID and proof of date of birth will be required when attending a regional vaccination centre or walk-in vaccination clinic for the shots.

Previously the vaccine had only been approved for over-12s who had underlying conditions or lived with people at risk from the virus.

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the advice from the JCVI and said he had asked his officials to ensure it wais fully implemented as quickly as possible.

“When formulating advice in relation to childhood immunisations, JCVI has consistently held that the main focus of its decision should be the benefit to children and young people themselves, weighed against any potential harms from vaccination to children and young people,” said the Minister.

“JCVI are an independent, expert committee who have thoroughly assessed a wide range of evidence. It is important that we continue to follow their advice,” added Mr Swann.

The move comes after one further coronavirus-related death was reported in the North on Wednesday, taking the total in the past seven days to 28.

The department also reported 1,040 new cases of the virus. There were 7,804 positive cases in the past week, well over 1,000 a day.

There are 226 patients receiving Covid-19 treatment in Northern Ireland hospitals with 38 of them in intensive care and 29 on ventilators. Hospital capacity is at 102 per cent.– Additional reporting: PA/Reuters