Almost 500 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have arrived at Bantry General Hospital.
The HSE confirmed to West Cork TD Christopher O’Sullivan that vaccinations would commence for frontline staff this afternoon.
Bantry General Hospital now joins other hospitals in the Cork region that have been vaccinating healthcare workers at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19.
It comes following the news that the vaccination programme, which commenced in nursing homes in the past week will be further accelerated to deliver the first dose of vaccinations to all nursing home residents and staff over the coming two weeks.
The HSE have confirmed to me that almost 500 doses of the vaccine have arrived at Bantry General Hospital and vaccinations will commence for frontline staff this afternoon.— Christopher O’Sullivan TD (@COSullivanTD) January 11, 2021
Welcoming the development, Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler said:
“I want to commend the HSE and everybody involved in the roll out of the vaccination programme, particularly the 65 vaccination teams that have been established to administer the vaccine to some of the most vulnerable members of our society in the coming weeks. After many dark months, we can see light and real opportunity for hope in our battle against this deadly virus”.
On the current epidemiological situation in relation to nursing homes, Minister Butler said that “where community transmission is high, the risk to nursing homes increases”.
“With new variants of COVID-19 identified in Ireland recently, we must maintain an even higher-level of vigilance in the coming weeks and ensure that all of the public health guidance is strictly followed.
It is particularly important that nursing homes continue to fully apply the infection prevention and control guidance working with the State authorities as necessary.
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has today defended the Government's response to the pandemic after figures revealed the country has the world's highest incidence of confirmed new Covid-19 cases per million people.
In the last week, Ireland has had 10,100 confirmed cases of coronavirus per million people, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University in the US.
Ireland's rate of Covid-19 has skyrocketed in recent weeks, which has been blamed on the lifting of restrictions over the Christmas period and the prevalence of the highly transmissible UK variant of the virus.
It has put enormous pressure on the health service with Health Service Executive (HSE) boss Paul Reid warning that the situation is "now beyond strain".
Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Taoiseach Micheál Martin rejected an assertion that he should be "ashamed" of his Government's performance.
"I'm not and I think that's an unfair presentation and assertion," he said.
Mr Martin said he believes the Government has "always responded effectively to the latest wave and to the latest surge of this particular virus".
He continued: "Of course we accept our responsibilities. But we have acted at all times, I think, effectively in responding to the various waves that have emerged.
"We're doing that very resolutely and very firmly and very clearly, with our public health colleagues, and with all of those on the front line.
"It's very challenging and it's very serious and our focus really is on getting this current wave under control, getting the numbers down and getting transmission of the virus down, relieving pressures on our hospitals and protecting the vulnerable and the elderly in our community."
He added: "That's my entire focus now. Over time, people can reflect on this and can make their observations and conclusions. But my focus now is working with my Government colleagues to deal with it."
Ireland now ranks ahead of the Czech Republic, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and Panama in terms of weekly cases.
Mr Martin told the programme that the UK variant of the virus was present in 45% of the most recent 92 samples that underwent additional testing.
Two weeks earlier, the variant was found in 25% of cases, and in just 9% of cases a fortnight previous to that, highlighting how quickly the strain has spread.
Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Mr Reid warned that hospital services are now "beyond strain".
Writing on Twitter, he said: "I've always tried to balance #COVID19 messages. I know everyone is finding it all very tough.
"But the situation in our hospitals, (1,582 patients,145 in ICU), is now beyond strain. To avoid getting sick, protect your family & healthcare workers please, please stay at home."