Donnelly warns of risk of further hospitalisations and deaths

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane says Government has made ‘dog’s dinner’ of regulations

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has warned of further hospitalisations and possible deaths from Covid-19 due to the spread of the coronavirus. Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Bloomberg

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said further hospitalisations and possible deaths from Covid-19 can be expected in the coming weeks and months due to the virus spreading at high levels in the community and the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Mr Donnelly said the winter months will be challenging, “both in terms of the spread of the virus and the strain it will put on our health system”.

The Minister was speaking in the Dáil on Friday evening, during a debate on the Health and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, which would extend the Covid emergency powers.

The Bill provides for the extension of the emergency provisions until March 31st, 2022 with the possibility of one further extension of a maximum period of three months.


The Dáil is expected to vote on the Bill next week.

Mr Donnelly said the proposed length of time of the extension was “both proportionate, reasonable and given the environment we find ourselves in, necessary to protect public health”.

“While I sincerely hope that there is no need for a further extension beyond March 31st, 2022, it is important to provide for this possibility,” he said.

Mr Donnelly said it was “extremely disappointing that we find ourselves in this situation” but that the State was “not out of this pandemic yet”. He described the powers granted under the Bill as “extraordinary”.

Sinn Féin's health spokesman David Cullinane said it was "a very disappointing day for all of us" as emergency powers were being asked for again as well as the recommended restrictions from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Mr Cullinane said people felt like “we’re going backwards” despite a high uptake of the vaccine and doing their best to protect themselves and their families over the past two years.

The Waterford TD claimed the health minister expected the Opposition “to give you a blank check to go and put in place whatever regulations you like”.

He said Mr Donnelly had been “too slow to respond in too many areas” and there was a “clumsy approach” by the Government “far too often”.

“I think the dog’s dinner that has been made of so many of the regulations and guidelines in the past and the confusion that even tripped up your own Government ministers is not something that I want to see continue, and it’s not something that I’m going to support,” he said.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said she was not "diminishing the current seriousness of the pandemic" but that there had been no reviews of the emergency legislation or measures previously enacted.

“We need a careful analysis of the legislation and the regulations to date and more oversight over any future legislation, none of the current legislation we’ve seen has gone through pre-legislative scrutiny,” she said.

Fianna Fáil TD Jim O'Callaghan said while he supported the legislation, "our health system is not being overrun".

He said there were threats to the healthcare system but that “we need to recognise that the Irish public have been through an awful lot”.

The Dublin Bay South TD noted that Ireland had some of the lengthiest and strictest lockdowns and that 93 per cent of the population is vaccinated.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times