People must 'double down' on public health measures

Eamon Ryan: Impact of new variant here may not be known for a few weeks so we need to remain vigilant
People must 'double down' on public health measures

Eamonn Ryan: "It will take two or three weeks to see if the Omicron variant increases transmissibility, increases illnesses, or gets around vaccines."

It will be two to three weeks before Ireland knows the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the Transport Minister says.

Eamon Ryan said surveillance was ongoing but it would take time to ascertain whether the variant had infected anyone in Ireland.

"We don't know. It is across Europe - Austria today joined the list of countries where it is. We do a lot of testing and it hasn't been picked up yet, as I understand. 

"The national lab in UCD does a really good forensic examination, so we won't know the real impact of this for a number of weeks. It would take two or three weeks to see does it increase transmissibility or increase illnesses or get around vaccines. So those are the three things we'll be looking out for."

Mr Ryan said this uncertainty meant that the public needs to "double down" on adhering to public health advice.

It means more than anything while we wait for evaluation, for that scientific evidence, is that we double down to tackle the Delta variant as well - that hasn't gone away. 

"There are still 5,000 people a day getting infected in our country. Just from doing the basic things we have been doing well, to get those numbers down," he told RTÉ's The Week in Politics. 

The Minister denied, however, that the Government was wrong to open society in October. 

He said that people "need to have contact and a social life" for their wellbeing and that Ireland had performed well on an international basis in protecting lives throughout the pandemic.

He said that any restrictions proposed at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting on gatherings of children "have to be temporary", saying that children need to be able to socialise. He said it would be a "very temporary measure" to get control of the Delta wave of the virus in the short term.

Mr Ryan added that "keeping contacts down" was going to be key in the coming weeks.

200,000 third doses

200,000 people got third doses of the Covid-19 vaccine last week, he said, saying the Government was "pushing full tilt" to get that weekly number up. 

Mr Ryan said that the legislation reintroducing mandatory hotel quarantine would be discussed at Cabinet on Tuesday, saying it was not a mistake to allow the previous law to lapse. 

He added that it was not possible for Ireland to "seal itself off" to prevent people arriving.

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