Covid-19: 4,667 new cases reported as State ‘very eager’ to offer boosters to people in 40s

Four additional instances of Omicron detected bringing variant’s total in country to 10

Simon Harris said there are also plans for a vaccine programme for children. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

A further 4,667 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the State, including four additional instances of the Omicron variant.

As of 8am on Sunday, there 504 patients hospitalised with the virus, of whom 109 were in intensive care.

Ten cases of the Omicron variant have now been detected in the State as a result of genome seqeuncing.

Earlier it was reported that the Government is “very eager” to begin Covid-19 booster vaccines for people in their 40s but work is ongoing on how the rollout will be done.

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Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris also said "we should boost the booster campaign and everything that possibly can be done to achieve that will be done."

The Irish Times understands the Government hopes vaccinations for those between 40 and 49 can start before Christmas but is awaiting confirmation from the HSE that it can be operationalised.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics Mr Harris said "we're on target to have 1.5 million people receive their booster by Christmas and this week we'll see an updated roadmap on boosters published by the Department of Health. "

Mr Harris was asked if the Government is trying to get boosters for people in their 40s, and first doses vaccines for children, done between Christmas and the New Year.

He said: “I want to wait until we have the plan but I think we’re very eager to move ahead with people above the age of 40 but it’s very important that we check how that can be operationalised best.”

Mr Harris said there are also plans for a vaccine programme for children.

He also referenced queues at walk-in vaccination centres - where the jabs are currently available to people over 50.

Mr Harris said: “I think it is important that we bring this back to first principles.

“If you are eligible for a booster vaccine you will receive an appointment.

“The walk-in centres are an additional way.

“We’re opening all channels to get as many people boosted as possible.”

He also said: “At the moment the booster campaign is open to everybody over the age of 50.

“We’d like to see if we can be more ambitious in that regard obviously because it is a race between the Omicron variant and the booster”.

Mr Harris said : “we’re learning an awful lot about this new variant” and there is “extremely encouraging” news about the benefit of a third dose.

“So getting this done as quickly as possible is a priority for Government and expect very significant developments this week.”

Mr Harris said it is the Government’s intention to keep schools open when asked if Omicron could force their closure.

It was put to him that he can’t guarantee they will be back in January.

Mr Harris said: “Nobody can guarantee anything in relation to this virus.

“That’s not the same as anybody speculating about schools.

“The intention is that our schools and indeed all of our education will remain on site. That is in line with the public health advice”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times