New restrictions can be avoided if numbers remain stable, says Varadkar

Tánaiste suggests that any significant move above 150 Covid cases in ICU could prompt rethink

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar pictured during a visit to Robotics and Drives, Mullingar on Thursday.

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar pictured during a visit to Robotics and Drives, Mullingar on Thursday.

 

Another lockdown cannot be ruled out but renewed restrictions can be avoided if the number of patients with the virus in intensive care units (ICUs) can be limited to around 150, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested.

Mr Varadkar was speaking against a backdrop of continued high daily numbers of new Covid-19 cases.

When asked about the chances of another lockdown by reporters in Mullingar Mr Varadkar replied: “Nobody can rule it out” but, he added, “we do believe we can avoid it because of the vaccination programme - 2,000/3,000 cases a day doesn’t mean what it meant last year or last winter”.

“The question is to what extent does that translate into hospitalisations, ICU numbers and deaths.

“Thankfully the number of deaths - while deaths are happening and every death is a tragedy - are a fraction of what they would have been previously because of the vaccines.

“And ICU numbers are now about a hundred, hospital numbers about 500.

“Our projections are that we could see the numbers in hospital increase to maybe 800 - but bear in mind there are more than 800 extra beds in the system than there were before the pandemic - and ICU numbers may be going to 150, a bit higher.

“If we can keep it in that space then I don’t think it will be necessary to re-impose restrictions.

“But if it started to go well ahead of those kind of numbers then we would started to get more worried,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Tánaiste added: “It is in our hands and we can all do a lot to make sure that we avoid any risk of re-imposing restrictions and that means getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, getting the booster shot, once it’s offered to you.

“Really important that people do stay at home if they develop symptoms get a PCR test.

“If you don’t have symptoms and you’re going to get involved in an event of an activity consider an antigen self-test that can help to pick up cases that wouldn’t otherwise be picked up.

“And then obviously people will know the advice around masks and handwashing and all of that.”

He said: “It doesn’t take an awful lot to turn the tide on this and just those five or six things if we all do it if 90 per cent of us do them 90 per cent of the time... that will turn the tide on this within a few weeks.”