Stephen Donnelly gives 'stark update' on Covid situation to Cabinet colleagues

Stephen Donnelly gives 'stark update' on Covid situation to Cabinet colleagues

Pictured is Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. File Picture: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

The Health Minister says he gave a "stark update" to his cabinet colleagues on Ireland's Covid situation.

Stephen Donnelly warned that the number of people in hospital is worrying, with the number of people in ICU surpassing 100 yesterday.

Last week was the fourth-highest week of Covid cases since the pandemic began, with more than 14,700 cases identified.

But, Mr Donnelly said the high vaccination rate enabled the country to continue reopening.

"This is why it is so important that there is full compliance from the sector and from people going into the nightclubs. The absolutely clear understanding is the only people going into a bar or a restaurant or a nightclub are those who are fully vaccinated.

"The current situation is serious. We have a steep rise in cases. Our 14-day [incidence] rate is at nearly 600 per 100,000 worryingly, we have about 500 people in the hospital.

"That's an up by more than 20% on one week, and up by more than 40% on two weeks. We have over 100 people in ICU now, with Covid. About 60% of them are not fully vaccinated.

"One of the most effective things we can do to protect our healthcare system to make sure that we're not canceling electives is for the 7% of people who to date have chosen not to get vaccinated, to get vaccinated.

"They're putting their friends and their families at risk, and also because they massively disproportionately represent the number of people in hospital and ICU with Covid."

 Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer Department of Health, pictured at a Covid-19 media briefing on Wednesday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer Department of Health, pictured at a Covid-19 media briefing on Wednesday. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Mr Donnelly said it would not be considered to tell the unvaccinated to stay at home.

"I don't think it's one that people would comply with, to be honest with you," he said.

"We've got to keep engaging with that 7% of the adult population. Some of them have very genuine concerns.

"For example, that there's people from particular nationalities, where they have had very, very bad experiences with their governments over many years, and there's a lot of mistrust. So we're reaching out to them using interpreters, trying to engage with them, bring them into the vaccine centers. So there's a lot of people who we need to engage with, we need to listen to very carefully we need to provide the expertise."

Today was a very important day for rapid antigen testing, he said as leaflets would be delivered nationwide informing people who were close contacts about what they should do if they had symptoms. Mr Donnelly acknowledged that progress on antigen testing had been slower than he would have liked, but that it was now being rolled out as part of a wider deployment.

Mr Donnelly has said that he was examining the cost of antigen tests as it was important for them to be affordable.

In addition, 60 to 69-year-olds will receive their booster vaccine at vaccine centres this week.

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