‘We would be in lockdown without vaccination’, Taoiseach says as new Covid restrictions announced

Taoiseach addresses the nation after sombre Cabinet meeting amid rising Covid-19 cases

A new closing time of midnight for pubs and restaurants was agreed by Cabinet - and advice to work from home as much as possible, starting Friday. An extension of the Covid-19 booster vaccination programme for over-50s will begin, as well. Video: RTE

 

There is “no doubt” we would be in a “full-scale lockdown” without the national vaccination programme, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said, addressing the nation on Tuesday evening.

“This is the fourth surge of infections that we have experienced as a country. But this time it is different. It is different because of the extraordinary success of a national vaccination programme.

“Without it, there is no doubt that we would now be in a full-scale lockdown.”

Mr Martin’s public statement followed a sombre Cabinet meeting on the situation facing the nation amid rising cases of Covid-19.

The Taoiseach highlighted that in the last week the Republic has seen the second highest rate of hospital admission in 2021.

He said that despite having developed and deployed a “massive” PCR testing-and-tracing operation, “it is still estimated that for every four detected cases, there may be as many as another six asymptomatic undetected cases in the community”.

“Clearly, this is too high,” he added.

“If hospitalisations continue to grow at the rate we are currently seeing no health system anywhere in the world would be able to cope.

“We need to act now to deal with this surge,” Mr Martin added.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
11,999,670 10,016,556

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
1006 97

The vaccination and booster programme “remain at the core” of the Government’s Covid response, Mr Martin said.

He also confirmed that the “phased and cautious return to the workplace has been paused”, and that everyone who can work from home should do so.

The Taoiseach said that Covid passports must continue to be used upon entering hospitality venues, and said the Cabinet has decided that the closing time for all pubs and restaurants will be midnight.

He said household close contacts of a confirmed case of Covid should now restrict their movement for five days, pending completion of a recommended antigen test.

“I know the picture emerging across Europe and numbers in our own country are a cause for deep concern. No one wants to go back to a world of widespread restrictions. That is what these changes are about,” he said.

Cases

The Department of Health confirmed 4,407 new cases of Covid-19 in the State on Tuesday. As of 8am, the number of patients being treated in hospital was 614, with 114 in ICU.

In a tweet on Tuesday evening chief medical officer Tony Holohan spoke of the 55,000 cases reported in the State over the last 2 weeks, saying the only time we have had more cases over a 14-day was in January, 2021.

“Unfortunately, we do expect this figure to increase in the coming days,” he added.

Mr Holohan said: “This case level is unsustainable. When incidence of disease is as high as this, we must all act as though we are close contacts and as though we are at risk of transmitting the virus to others.”

The chief medical officer called on the public to prioritise who they meet, saying, “We are more likely to contract Covid-19 from someone we know – a friend, a work colleague, a team-mate – than a stranger passing by in a shop or on the bus.”

He also called on the more than 2 million people now eligible for a booster vaccine – including the over-50s and those with an underlying medical condition – to attend their vaccine appointment and to minimise their contacts in the lead-up to receiving the booster.

Cabinet

A new closing time of midnight for pubs and restaurants from Thursday was agreed by Cabinet, with advice on working from home to change from Friday.

Cabinet also agreed on Tuesday to change the public health advice for households where a case of Covid-19 is confirmed. Members of the household will now be asked to restrict their movements for five days by staying at home.

Previously, vaccinated people with no symptoms in such a situation were not obliged to restrict movements.

Sources indicated impacted households will be sent antigen tests.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly also announced the extension of the Covid-19 booster vaccination programme on Tuesday to include the over-50s, those with underlying medical conditions and those in long-term healthcare facilities following recommendations made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

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