Covid-19 latest: 'We cannot afford to drop our guard now' 

Covid-19 latest: 'We cannot afford to drop our guard now' 

Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland has managed to suppress Covid-19 to the lowest incidence levels in the EU in recent weeks. 

A further five Covid-19 related deaths were notified today, bringing the national toll to 2,102.

Another 227 cases of the virus were also announced, while as of 2pm, there were 224 patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals, of which 38 were in ICU.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said there had been eight new admissions to ICU in the latest figures - the most in a 24-hour period since the spring.

"Covid-19 is still an extremely infectious disease which has the potential to lead to hospitalisation and even ICU admissions," he said.

"Ireland has managed to suppress Covid-19 to the lowest incidence levels in the EU in recent weeks. We have managed to keep up our safe behaviours and worked to protect each other throughout the pandemic.

"If we do not continue to suppress the disease through the actions we have learned over recent months, we will very quickly see a surge in infections leading to an increase in hospitalisations, ICU admissions and, tragically, deaths.

"We are actively planning to begin vaccinating people in early 2021. We cannot afford to drop our guard now."

Christmas spike 'inevitable' 

Earlier, the Tánaiste said a spike in Covid-19 cases is "inevitable" as people mix over the Christmas holidays.

Leo Varadkar said if further restrictions are introduced in January it "won't be done lightly".

Referring to a rise in coronavirus cases following gatherings in the US and Canada for Thanksgiving, Mr Varadkar said it gives an indication on how the virus will spread over the festive holidays.

"It is likely that cases will rise again and we have never ruled out the possibility that we will reintroduce restrictions for a short period in January," he added.

He said the number of cases will dictate whether the country moves back to Level 5.

"We need to make sure that we don't concentrate too much on daily numbers," he added.

"If the Government has to reimpose restrictions we won't do it lightly as we know what it means for businesses, for jobs, but if we do, it will be for as short a period as possible."

He also said he believes the country will see the end of the pandemic next year.

The Fine Gael leader described the start of the UK's vaccination process as a "day of hope".

"I think that vaccines, with mass testing and with increased knowledge of how we treat and prevent this disease, we will see the end of this pandemic in 2021 and that's the best news from yesterday," he added.

"In terms of what we are doing, we have advanced purchase agreements to buy six vaccines, eight million doses for Ireland."

Doses of Covid-19 vaccines are expected to become available in Ireland next month.

Ireland has opted into six advanced purchase agreements with Moderna, Oxford/AstroZeneca, Janssen, BioNTech-Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur and CureVac.

A high-level taskforce established to oversee the development and implementation of the programme for the rollout of vaccines will publish its action plan on Friday.

Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet hopes to approve the plan next Tuesday, which will be followed by its communications campaign.

"The intention is to vaccinate everyone, to offer it to everyone, free of charge. It's not compulsory," Mr Varadkar added.

"The best estimate is that probably 70% is what you would need to achieve herd immunity.

"I ran vaccine clinics and I found that the best way to encourage people and convince people to take the vaccine is to engage with them, to explain to them, to reassure them, to answer questions, not to brow-beat them or patronise them "It is about information, answering questions."

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