Covid-19 latest: Cabinet subcommittee meets as more than 4500 cases confirmed 

Government ministers are to consider the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to tackle the rising number of cases.
Covid-19 latest: Cabinet subcommittee meets as more than 4500 cases confirmed 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there were lessons to be learned from other countries, including the UK, in how antigen tests were rolled out.

A further 4,570 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Ireland today, the Department of Health said.

As of Monday morning, there were 622 patients in hospitals with the disease, with 117 in intensive care.

The cabinet subcommittee is meeting this evening to discuss the latest health advice, as the number of people in hospital with Covid passed 600.

Government ministers are to consider the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to tackle the rising number of cases.

Last week, public health experts recommended that the Government advise people to work from home when possible.

Possible measures to curb spread 

The committee will also consider a more general use of antigen tests and expanding the use of Covid passes.

Hairdressers and gyms are among some of the places ministers will examine as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there were lessons to be learned from other countries, including the UK, in how antigen tests were rolled out.

Mr Martin said he supported the subsidisation of antigen tests to make them “more affordable”, particularly over winter.

The Fianna Fáil leader also said he spoke to business traders earlier on Monday ahead of the Government’s consideration of Nphet’s advice on working from home.

He said that the economy suffered when Covid was not “kept in check”.

“There is an inextricable link between the economy doing well and how we keep a lid on Covid,” he added.

“They (traders) do appreciate there has been a significant bounce-back in the economy. One of the big issues they have is getting the staff for their various enterprises.

“That illustrates that thousands of people have come back, so the increase in socialisation, the reopening of the economy invariably has led to high case numbers.” 

Mr Martin also appealed to people to reduce how much they were socialising, as that would have the biggest impact on reducing the number of Covid cases.

“We have to look at that, individually and collectively as a society.

“That’s important to keep the lid on the virus,” Mr Martin added.

“We are in a much different position this year than last year because of the power of vaccination.

“We are in a serious situation in terms of the rising cases and the health services are under pressure, not just because of Covid, but this year we have a higher level of non-Covid respiratory illnesses. That’s creating pressures.

“Across Europe there is essentially a fourth wave.

“There’s a number of steps we can take.

“The rollout of the booster programme is important, and already the data from our public health authorities is that the over-80s age cohort, there is a declining incidence of the disease.

“We are rolling out antigen testing to a more significant degree across wider society.

“We will engage with Nphet and work through the advice in respect of working from home and indeed other issues we will give consideration to.” 

Reboot 

On Monday afternoon, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien told reporters that he expected a detailed discussion at cabinet on Tuesday morning about the latest measures to tackle Ireland’s increasing rate of Covid-19.

He said the Government would be looking specifically at a “reboot” of some of the measures currently in place.

Mr O’Brien referenced the use of the Covid-19 certificate, as well as antigen testing and mask-wearing.

“The figures are concerning and Government are concerned about the increasing incidence of Covid-19 and particularly hospitalisation,” he told reporters at the Custom House in Dublin city centre.

“We need to make sure that our health system is not put under undue strain and that we manage that through and I think we’ve been able to do that successfully by taking public health advice and by taking that on board and actually implementing the advice that we are given,” he said.

“I would expect quite a detailed discussion tomorrow at cabinet on the proposals that will be brought forward.

"I don’t see the situation where we’re looking at re-imposing any restrictions.” 

Mr O’Brien said that he would like to see the rollout of the booster programme expedited.

“I think what I’d like to see is the rollout of the booster programme expedited, particularly (to) those who need it most – the elderly and those who may be immunocompromised as well, and that is actually happening.” “Now we need to look at other cohorts as to how we can speed up the rollout of the booster programme.” 

Guidance on antigen tests 

Earlier, the Minister for Tourism, Catherine Martin, said the public needed guidance on when and how to use antigen tests.

“I think what they (the public) need now is guidance on that and that’s what needed to be discussed at the cabinet committee, the types of tests that should be used, when they should be used, how to use them.

She added that the tests should be more affordable and accessible.

The Green Party minister also appeared to rule out the hospitality sector using antigen tests alongside Covid passes, saying it was not financially viable for venues.

She also said that compliance with Covid certs and checking identification needed to continue.

“I would say that since July, until the end of October, the HSA (Health and Safety Authority) did do 645 checks, and this included 100 checks on late-night venues.

“The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) did almost 12,000 checks in that same time.”

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