Taoiseach predicts ‘high volume of Covid cases’, says hospital figures keenly watched

Martin denies tensions with Holohan over proposed reopening of indoor dining

Outdoor dining on Capel Street, Dublin,  this weekend. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Outdoor dining on Capel Street, Dublin, this weekend. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Saturday said the Government was very worried about the transmissibility of the Delta variant and predicted a high volume of cases.

“The situation is serious in respect of the Delta variant. There will be a high volume of cases and case numbers will continue to grow so we will keep a very close eye on hospitalisations that result from that and the illnesses that result from that, and the mortality,” Mr Martin said.

He was speaking as the Department of Health this evening reported 1,377 new Covid cases and said 78 patients were in hospital, with 22 in intensive care.

“Nphet have done some remodelling and I will meeting public health authorities this week and we will be looking at how to we plan for August and for September.

“All of us need to be vigilant in terms of our individual behaviours because this is a further twist in the road of Covid-19.”

Mr Martin said that, as of now, foreign travel was set to resume from Monday with the operation of the EU Digital Covid Certificate for travel originating with the EU or European Economic Area, with indoor dining for fully vaccinated people restarting from July 26th.

Threshold

He would not be drawn when asked whether the planned easing of restrictions was contingent on cases remaining below a certain threshold, such as 2,000 cases per day.

Mr Martin stressed that notwithstanding the rising number of cases due to the Delta variant, the situation facing the Government now was very different to 12 months ago or indeed six months ago, due to the vaccines rollout.

Restaurant tables on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. The Taoiseach on Friday said indoor dining is set to resume from July 26th, despite the surge in Covid cases. Photograph: Collins
Restaurant tables on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. The Taoiseach on Friday said indoor dining is set to resume from July 26th, despite the surge in Covid cases. Photograph: Collins

“I think where we are now, 60 per cent of the population vaccinated, and 75 per cent with first doses... It’s a different type of scenario from where it would have been a year ago, so I think we have to look at things afresh and analyse where the prevalence is, the age cohorts and what strategies we deploy.

“Obviously vaccination is the more effective tool and we are doing very well on that front and we will continue with that, and I would urge people to take the vaccine offered to them, but I do think we are in a different stage of the pandemic compared to six months ago or compared to last year,” the Taoiseach said.

“We are going to give this very serious consideration in terms of how we plan for August and how we plan for September, but we do have to do some analysis of this with the public health authorities … it’s not a simple matter of doing the things we did a year ago,” he added.

“One of the key objectives is to protect the reopening that we have achieved so far, starting off with schools and childcare, then construction, personal services, retail, outdoor hospitality. It’s about consolidating all of that.”

Unvaccinated

The Taoiseach also played down suggestions of tension between the Government and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan over the resumption of indoor dining, which he confirmed is set to resume from July 26th, despite the sharp rise in cases in recent days.

Mr Holohan has repeatedly recommended that parents not bring children out for indoor dining, even though under the proposed rules this is allowed.

On Thursday night, Mr Holohan said: “People who are unvaccinated, including children, should continue to avoid high-risk, uncontrolled indoor settings. That includes indoor hospitality.”

He suggested that families going out for a meal should try to do so outdoors, at least until a higher proportion of the population is vaccinated.

Asked about Dr Holohan’s comments, Mr Martin on Saturday denied there was tension between the Government and Dr Holohan over the issue and insisted Ministers heed the advice received from public health experts.

Saying he had spoken to Dr Holohan on Friday, the Taoiseach said: “We work together and the broad, broad thrust of public health advice has been adopted by Government and put into legislation,” said Mr Martin, speaking at Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour.

“We went through the Dáil, with many in the Dáil objecting to it on the basis that they wanted everybody to be allowed in – vaccinated and unvaccinated entirely into indoor dining – (but) we followed the public health device in that regard.

“There is no tension and we need to keep things in perspective because there has to be common purpose, as there has been from the outset of the pandemic, between Government and public health advice. I take that very seriously indeed.”