4,607 new cases confirmed as Nphet raises concerns over infection rates and Omicron Covid variant

4,607 new cases confirmed as Nphet raises concerns over infection rates and Omicron Covid variant

Dr Tony Holohan and Dr Cillian de Gascun met with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Health Minister Stephen Donnely this evening to update them on the situation around the virus. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Nphet has told Government leaders that there has been a stabilisation of Covid-19 infection figures in recent days, however there is still concern over infection rates.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan, his Deputy Dr Ronan Glynn, Professor Phillip Nolan and Professor Cillian de Gascun, joined the three coalition leaders and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly for a meeting this evening to update them on the latest situation around the virus.

It was noted that incidence and positivity rates, hospitalisations and ICU admissions were all stable. 

However, there is concern about a "very high incidence" among 9-11-year-olds and the risk that mixing among all ages will increase in the run-up to Christmas.

Sources said that NPHET gave a rationale for its advice that gatherings of children be avoided, with expectation the Cabinet will agree advice, but not regulations on Tuesday. 

The infection rates for both the 5 to 11 age group and their parents is high, the Government was told.

However, NPHET told leaders that it will be a fortnight before the effect of the Omicron variant can be assessed.

Boosters vaccines, however, are showing significant benefit in both the over 70s and 80s.

The Government will consider a proposal which would advise parents to limit social interactions to one a week. One source described it as a decision between "a playdate or a panto".

Earlier, officials at the Department of Health has confirmed a further 4,607 cases of Covid-19 with Dr Holohan saying hospitalisation numbers are "concerning."

Currently, there are 579 patients hospitalised with the virus, of whom 115 are in ICU.

The CMO said the high incidence of disease continues to have a significant impact on our health service. 

We are still seeing a concerning number of people who are in hospital and require critical care for Covid-19. 

"This wave of infection is driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

“We know that the news of the Omicron variant is causing some concern. 

"However, we also know how to break the chains of transmission of Covid-19 – these measures have worked against previous variants of Covid-19, they can successfully supress transmission of the Delta variant and we are optimistic that they will work against the Omicron variant," he said.

Dr Holohan also advised people to rethink their social activities and to practice good social distancing and follow public health guidelines when meeting people.

“Be mindful of your contacts in the days after socialising, and especially consider anyone you meet who may be immunocompromised or vulnerable to Covid-19," he said.

The CMO said last week, more than 10,000 people came forward to receive their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

“Vaccination remains one of the best ways to protect ourselves from severe illness and death from Covid-19. 

“We are now offering a third booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine to all those aged 16-years and older. 

"Please prioritise your booster vaccine appointment as soon as you are called for it. We have seen encouraging signs in the decreasing levels of infection among those age groups that have received their booster dose and so, the importance of coming forward cannot be overstated."

Cabinet expected to agree on advising people to reduce social interactions

Justice Minister Helen McEntee has said she expects the Cabinet will agree to advise people to continue restricting their movements to help reduce the number of Covid cases.

Ms McEntee said ministers will meet this week to discuss advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Nphet is meeting party leaders to discuss the Omicron Covid variant and its impact on health advice in Ireland.

The Cabinet will meet on Tuesday and are expected to agree a number of measures, including restrictions on school playdates, birthday parties and school gatherings.

Ms McEntee said people are “generally ahead” of the Government in cutting down on their social activities.

“We have seen in the last few weeks, particularly as numbers have continued to increase, the general public have pulled back, be it cancelling large gatherings or just reducing and restricting their overall movements,” the Fine Gael minister added.

“When it comes to kids’ birthday parties or any type of gatherings, that is the case here too.

“We have to meet with Cabinet in the next day or two, we have a letter and advice from the chief medical officer and his team. Obviously we will explore that.

“I assume and I would guess at this stage that we will be advising and encouraging people to continue to restrict their movements.

Like everything else with Covid, it takes some strange twists and turns and we always keep everything under review

“But we have to decide all of this collectively at Cabinet.”

Any restrictions agreed will be aimed at tackling case numbers ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Meanwhile, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys did not say whether there are plans to allow recently unemployed people to claim the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).

“The PUP is currently being paid to people who are on it and that number has decreased considerably,” Ms Humphreys added.

“We are down to 55,000 people on PUP – further reduced this week again.

“That shows to me people are returning to work, the numbers on the live register are also decreasing.

“Like everything else with Covid, it takes some strange twists and turns and we always keep everything under review.”

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