Party leaders meet Nphet as Holohan says Omicron now accounts for 14% of cases

Another 3,887 cases of Covid-19 reported; staff to be redeployed for booster campaign

Another 3,887 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the State, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The department also said on Tuesday evening that as of 8am on Tuesday, there were 493 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 109 are in ICU.

Speaking amid the latest figures, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said that results on Tuesday indicated that approximately 14 per cent of the State’s new infections are now due to the new Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, the Government has asked the health service to provide a revised Covid-19 booster plan that will immediately accelerate the level of vaccinations within days.


This will involve longer hours at centres, new satellite centres and staff being redeployed from across the public sector.

The plans come as party leaders prepare for a meeting with members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Tuesday evening.

There is significant resistance at a senior level to any call for further restrictions. Sources believe Ireland has been outlier in comparison to other European countries in terms of the length and severity of lockdowns.

It is understood the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, will update the party leaders and lead Ministers on the latest Covid trends ahead of Christmas.

A source said the meeting is for politicians to get an “update”. Politicians have been anxious that Nphet may recommend increased restrictions after its planned meeting on Thursday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly brought a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday outlining new plans to redeploy health service staff to the vaccine campaign and to draft in people from other parts of the public sector, including people going through the public sector appointments process, it is understood.

Mr Donnelly told the meeting that he had asked the HSE to begin putting in place arrangements for the administration of paediatric vaccines to children aged 5-11 years.

Ministers were told on Tuesday that the HSE had previously anticipated that the booster programme would have capability to administer 250,000 doses per week from January onwards.

Mr Donnelly said that he has emphasised to the HSE the importance of ensuring that an updated implementation plan can deliver an “appreciably greater volume of activity during the remaining weeks of December and into early 2022”.

He also said he had spoken directly with GP representatives and pharmacy representatives to ensure they were central to a national effort to administer more boosters.

He told the meeting that he is pushing for vaccine centres to operate additional hours, additional satellite centres if necessary and the necessary workforce requirements, including the redeployment of existing health service personnel and secondment of personnel from other parts of the public service.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin had earlier called for “all hands on deck in relation to the booster campaign” due to “serious concern” about the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Martin said it was “critical” that more GPs and pharmacists get involved in administering vaccines.

“We need everybody on board now, all hands on deck in relation to the booster campaign because Omicron is of serious concern and we do know that the booster can give great protection,” he said.

“So I thank everybody who has been involved and I think there’s ongoing engagement now that we can get as many GPs to continue and stay involved and get more involved and likewise to get more pharmacies involved in terms of administering the vaccine over the coming days and the coming weeks. I think that is critical.”

Mr Martin said people deserved credit for adjusting their behaviour over the last six weeks and that had impacted on stabilising hospital numbers and case numbers.

“Anything else is speculation at this stage. Given the nature of Omicron we are in ongoing contact and engagement with public health, but the focus over the last number of days has been on the booster campaign, working out the most effective ways that we can expand it and get more people jabbed as quickly as we possibly can.”

A more than 10-fold increase in cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in Ireland in one week has prompted Government officials to rush to put in place responses.

Omicron cases now account for 11 per cent of all infections in Ireland, and officials expect cases to continue to rise over the coming weeks.

In response, Mr Donnelly said on Monday that booster shots would now be administered just three months after completing the initial vaccination course.

The acceleration of the booster campaign in the next 10 days is vital, immunology expert Professor Christine Loscher has said.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Prof Loscher called for the vaccine booster campaign to be immediately extended to everyone who received the one dose Janssen vaccine, “regardless of age”.

The one dose vaccine has waned with some now down to 20 per cent protection, she said.

While “coming down the cohorts” had been sensible to date, those who received Janssen now needed to be prioritised, she urged.

A lot of young people received the Janssen vaccine and they now needed to get the booster quicker, she said.

There had been a three-week delay in implementing the booster campaign after it was approved by Niac, she said, and as a result cases had accelerated.

Every effort had to be made in the next 10 days to get the maximum number of vaccines “into arms,” to avoid the number of Omicron cases “climbing quickly”.

More than 1.2 million booster doses have been administered so far, latest figures show; this includes 97,000 third doses to people who are immunocompromised.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, Dr Denis McCauley has called on the public not to seek an appointment with their GP unless it is urgent.

Speaking on RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland, Dr McCauley said that interest in getting the booster vaccine had increased among the general public in recent times.

The change to three months before a booster dose would increase demand and put more pressure on GPs, he said.

He urged people not to seek appointments with their GP if the complaint was not urgent and if they could wait until after Christmas.