Government U-turn on restrictions to curb rise in Covid-19 cases

Government U-turn on restrictions to curb rise in Covid-19 cases

IRISH Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the recent surge in Covid-19 infections means that restrictions will need to be tightened.

Announcing the change in a televised address at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said that while tougher measures needed to be brought back, the country's successful vaccination programme meant it could remain open.

As of the 15th November, 90% of those eligible for a vaccine have been given one dose, and 89% have received their second, making Ireland one of the most vaccinated countries in Europe.

Despite this, Mr Martin said that for every four detected Covid cases, six asymptomatic — and therefore undetected cases — may be present in the community.

This figure is too high, Mr Martin said, especially as hospitals and GPs are experiencing a "huge increases with the number of people presenting with non-Covid problems".

The health system risks being overwhelmed if cases continue along the current trajectory, he said.

While the link between infections, hospitalisations, and deaths has been broken by the level of immunity in the population, the prevalence of other winter illnesses and the lack of ICU beds throughout the country pose a threat to the health system.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described the latest modelling on hospitalisations and ICU admissions is "very stark".

In the six weeks leading up to mid-November in 2019, the number of children admitted to hospital was below 12,000, whereas there were more than 20,000 children treated in hospital over the same period this year.

The new policy will reverse the loosening of restrictions announced on 22 October, when the 11.30pm closing time on hospitality venues was lifted.

The Taoiseach said the government wants hospitality to remain open and is committed to working with the sector to ensure the current rules are adhered to.

Covid vaccination passes will become mandatory for cinemas and theatres, and all those in the household of a confirmed Covid case will have to isolate for five days, pending the result of an antigen test, and regardless of vaccination status.

The Government has clarified this evening that the "stay-at-home" rule will apply to teachers.

While Labour leader Alan Kelly told RTÉ News that Mr Martin had said to him that teachers would be exempt from this measure, the government has since confirmed that teachers are not exempt from the five-day rule.

Commenting on the changes, Mr Martin said it is "our collective effort, in adhering to the public health measures, that will keep our society and our economy open, that will sustain and maintain our progress and will keep us healthy and safe".