IRELAND IS set to accelerate its vaccination campaign amid rising cases of Covid-19 and the arrival of the South African variant of the virus on Irish shores.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly outlined the new plans which will see an increased number of nursing home staff and residents vaccinated over the next two weeks.
“We had planned to vaccinate all 75,000 residents and staff with the first dose of the vaccine by the end of January,” Donnelly explained.
"We’re now accelerating this plan to finish earlier, meaning that the first dose will be given to all residents and staff in the next two weeks.”
“We’re mobilising 65 vaccination teams including hospital vaccinators, community vaccinators, school vaccinators and the National Ambulance Service. Vaccinations will take place seven days a week.
“We’ve decided to use some of our one week buffer as our supply of vaccines has been constant and we’ve received solid reassurance from Pfizer that this will continue to be the case.”
“Speed is of the essence and this is especially true for the most vulnerable people in our society."
The announcement came on a day when 8,248 new cases of Covid-19 were announced in Ireland – the highest number of daily detections yet - along with 20 more coronavirus deaths.
A total of 2,327 Covid-19 related deaths have now been recorded in Ireland along with 135,884 cases.
Of the new cases recorded, 3,834 are men and 4,375 are women - with 61 per cent under 45 years of age and median age of 38 among cases recorded.
The majority of cases came in Dublin (3,013), with Cork (1,374), Limerick (538), Kildare (314), and Donegal (310) with the remaining 2,699 cases spread across all the other counties.
A total of 1,180 have been hospitalised with the virus with 109 in ICU.
It comes as Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed that the South African variant has now been discovered in Ireland with three cases confirmed so far.
“Three cases of a new variant of Covid-19 recently identified in South Africa have been confirmed in Ireland today by whole genome sequencing," he said.
"All of the cases identified are directly associated with recent travel from South Africa.
“Anyone who has travelled from South Africa recently is advised to self-isolate for 14 days and identify themselves through a GP for testing as soon as possible.
“We are particularly advising healthcare workers travelling from South Africa, that it is essential that they self-isolate for 14 days before entering/re-entering the workplace.
“While this variant has not yet been identified in many European countries we believe the identification here reflects the extent of genome sequencing surveillance in Ireland.”