Is the end of the Covid-19 pandemic in sight?

In the News podcast: With case numbers falling, growing optimism of better times ahead

Much of the talk on Wednesday is about when and how Ireland will reopen. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Much of the talk on Wednesday is about when and how Ireland will reopen. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


The nightmare before Christmas never really happened. When the Omicron variant of the Sars Cov-2 virus was first detected in South Africa at the end of November, the alarm bells started ringing loudly across the world.

The virus had mutated so dramatically in such a short space of time that there were fears it would undo all the positive benefits of the vaccine programme in Ireland and other countries.

As the weeks passed, it became clear the virus was indeed infecting those who were already vaccinated and was far more transmissible than any of the variants that preceded it.

But there was good news too. Early data from Africa and other countries suggested that people were not getting as sick with Omicron as they had done with Delta or the early strains of the infection.

Scientists and medics urged caution, however. It was still too early to say how severe the impact of Omicron would be in this part of the world.

But it now seems clear that Omicron has worked in our favour – at least to some degree.

Tens of thousands of people were diagnosed with the illness every day at the height of the fifth wave of the pandemic in Ireland but while the numbers in hospitals climbed to in excess of 1,000, those who fell critically ill and ended up in ICU rarely went above 100.

Now the case numbers are falling and it looks like the peak of the current wave has come and gone.

Much of the talk today is about when and how Ireland will reopen, what Nphet will advise later this week and what the country will look like once the shadow of the pandemic eventually lifts.

Today In The News talks to Irish Times Public Affairs Editor Simon Carswell and Prof Christine Loescher of DCU about how and when Ireland might re-open and the likely trajectory of the illness in the weeks ahead.

In the News is presented by reporters Sorcha Pollak and Conor Pope.