Minister for Justice Helen McEntee tests positive for Covid-19 

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee tests positive for Covid-19 

Ms McEntee, who is pregnant with her first child, confirmed the news on Twitter.

Ireland's minister for justice Helen McEntee has revealed she has tested positive for Covid-19.

Ms McEntee, who is pregnant with her first child, confirmed the news on Twitter.

She posted: "I was recently tested and have received a positive result for #Covid19.

"In line with our HSE guidance I am isolating. I am continuing to carry out my duties by working remotely including attending Cabinet.

"The information the HSE has shows that pregnant women or their babies are not at a higher risk if we get Covid-19.

"At the same time I urge everyone to follow public health advice and stay at home. If you think you're developing symptoms no matter how small, act as though you have Covid.

"We all know the seriousness of the situation. We must protect our health system and our most vulnerable."

The minister announced last month she is pregnant and is due her baby in May.

Second positive test in cabinet 

She is the second Government minister to test positive for the virus.

Last month Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue confirmed he had contracted coronavirus. He was due to end his 14-day isolation period this week.

It comes as the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has surpassed the peak of the first wave, the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) said.

The previous highest number of patients with the virus in hospital was 881 on April 15.

Paul Reid, HSE chief executive, tweeted: "With 921 people in hospital, we've now exceeded the peak level of the 1st wave (881). 75 in ICU. Healthy people are getting very sick.

"Everyone gets how serious this is now. Let's all do what's needed, turn this around, save lives whilst the vaccine arrives. We have to."

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital jumped from 817 on Tuesday to 921 by Wednesday morning.

Health officials have been sounding warnings over the sharp rise in people needing hospital treatment for the virus.

A National Public Health Emergency Team briefing on Monday heard that the number of people in intensive care units could rise to between 200 and 400 by the middle of January if people failed to take action.

Cabinet subcommittee meeting today 

It comes as the Cabinet is meeting to consider a range of new restrictions to curb the pandemic.

A subcommittee on Tuesday put forward a number of new proposals, including closing schools, construction sites and creches.

A new requirement for travellers arriving in Ireland to produce a negative coronavirus test, taken within 72 hours of their journey, is also to be considered.

It is understood the measure will apply to people arriving from Britain and South Africa from Saturday.

It comes after reports the more virulent UK variant of Covid-19 was found in around 25% of cases in Ireland, up from 10% previously.

A separate variant, believed to be more virulent, has also been discovered in South Africa.

Construction sites could be closed, apart from essential projects such as social housing or refurbishments.

Creches will also shut but will still be available for children of essential workers, and schools look set to close until the end of January at the earliest, as indicated by the Taoiseach.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on Wednesday urged people to protect the health system.

Mr Coveney tweeted: "Today government makes further decisions on schools, childcare, construction sites, (international) travel, retail, vaccines, healthcare and financial supports in response to #COVID19.

"I know it's not easy for so many, but we must act together to protect people and our heath system."

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