Taoiseach confident Ireland can get through current wave without additional restrictions 

Mr Martin was speaking in Cork today at an event marking the transfer of the management of homeless services from SVP to the charity Depaul.
Taoiseach confident Ireland can get through current wave without additional restrictions 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking at today’s transfer of services at Deerpark House.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said he is confident that Ireland can get through the Omicron wave of Covid-19 without any further restrictions.

Speaking in Cork today, Mr Martin cautioned that the country had not yet reached the peak of the current wave and, praising the public’s response, he urged ongoing vigilance.

“We haven’t peaked yet, and Covid has had many twists and turns, but I am confident that, if we maintain the same focus, we can get through this wave,” he said.

Mr Martin said that, despite the extraordinary virulence of the Omicron variant, the country had done well.

“We are over a thousand now in hospital, and thankfully the conversion to intensive care is not at the same level as it would have been last year, for example,” he said.

Vaccination 

Mr Martin urged anyone in a position to get a booster vaccine to take it, and urged those yet to get vaccinated to do so.

“If you haven’t had a vaccine to date, please go and get your first and second vaccine, because what is absolutely clear is that if you are vaccinated, it will reduce your capacity to get very ill,” he said.

The Taoiseach reiterated that he was in favour of a voluntary approach to vaccination.

“I’ve been very clear that I favour the voluntary approach to vaccination, and in fact we’ve done extraordinarily well as a country in terms of 94% vaccination rate of first and second, and even 63% of the booster,” Mr Martin said.

“We have achieved one of the highest rates in the world through a voluntary system and that’s the system that we will maintain.”

Review of restrictions 

Mr Martin said Nphet would be advising the Government in the coming days on the possibility of adjusting the length of time close contacts needed to isolate, but would do so in the context of the advice of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The Taoiseach said the Government would not be reviewing the 8pm closing time for bars and restaurants this week. It is part of restrictions due to expire on January 30.

Homelessness services in Cork

Mr Martin was speaking at an event marking the transfer of the management of homeless services, hitherto provided by the St Vincent DePaul (SVP) in Cork, to the charity Depaul.

SVP had announced in September 2020 that it was planning to transfer the management of its homeless services to other charities with specialist expertise in the sector.

The Cork ceremony saw the handover to Depaul of St Vincent’s hostel on Anglesea Terrace, which has 73 places for men, and Deerpark House on Friars Walk, which has 51 places for men.

The Taoiseach praised the work of SVP over the years, and he recalled that he had opened Deerpark House in 2002 when he was health minister. He said he could vouch for the quality of the service many people had received there over the years.

He said he was concerned about figures published last week, which show a significant rise in homelessness, noting that supply is a key issue.

He added that the ‘housing first’ strand of the Government’s Housing For All strategy was proving to be a success.

“The housing first strategy is a particular intervention that came from providers in the homeless sector, that basically provides housing with supports to people living rough immediately, and it’s working very well,” Mr Martin stated.

The Taoiseach said the Government was aiming to meet its core target of 9,500 direct builds in social housing in 2022, something he felt was key to tackling homelessness.

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