Government watching rising number of Covid cases in England 'very carefully'

Government watching rising number of Covid cases in England 'very carefully'

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government was watching the rising number of Covid-19 cases in England "very carefully". Picture Denis Minihane.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said the Government was watching the rising number of Covid-19 cases in England "very carefully".

Speaking at Dublin Zoo, Mr Varadkar said the plan to lift further restrictions next month will go ahead.

"The numbers seem to be around 7,000 a day (in England), haven't gone up much in recent days," Mr Varadkar added.

"But that could change very dramatically so we have to keep a close eye on the situation.

"But as things stand for now the plan is to proceed with the July reopening as planned, international travel restrictions on the 19th of July.

"And then further relaxation in August and among the things under consideration for August is a phased return to the office.

"Level two allows for people to return to the office for training, induction and meetings, level one is a staggered phase return to the office.

"At the end of June, when we have a Cabinet meeting we will be able to work on that and obviously engage with employers and unions."

Mr Varadkar also said he would be "reluctant" to make any changes that would force employees to tell their employer whether they have been vaccinated against any disease, including Covid-19.

He said: "It's never been the case in Ireland with exceptions in very rare circumstances, dental procedures or operations, where anyone was under an obligation to tell their employer what medicines they were on, what vaccines they have taken or if they had an infectious disease.

"It's never been a requirement that employees have to tell their employers private medical information, and you'd want to have a really strong overwhelming public health case for that to change."

Ireland's chief medical officer said the use of antigen testing to restart certain activities, which would otherwise not be deemed to be safe, "poses several risks".

Dr Tony Holohan warned that it would be a risk to the individuals engaging in the activities and to those around them, as well as to the wider public health response.

The chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is appearing before the Transport Oireachtas Committee to discuss the use of rapid antigen testing in aviation and travel.

Dr Holohan said: "As the evidence evolves - and assuming that that evidence is supportive in relation to rapid antigen testing, we are more than willing to support its further use where appropriate real-world evaluation indicates that it can bring added benefit in the pandemic response.

"Ultimately, however, based on knowledge to date, the safest way to reopen society, including to international travel, will be to continue to control disease incidence through a range of public health measures which are continuously reviewed, along with progressing the national vaccination programme to ensure as many people as possible within the population are protected through immunisation."

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