By Michelle Devane, PA
The head of Ireland’s health service said he is looking ahead to April, May and June with a “fine balance of caution and optimism”.
Paul Reid appealed to people to plan their Easter break safely, amid concern over the potential for a fourth wave of Covid-19.
The number of people in intensive care units at present is “too high” to safely cope with any increased level of transmissions, he said.
“Our concern remains that if were to enter a fourth wave we would be doing so on a high base of hospitalisations,” he told the HSE's weekly coronavirus briefing.
“I would urge everybody to plan their Easter break in a very safe manner.
“We all have real experience of when society decides to take a temporary break from public health measures. We know the impacts are hugely disproportionate.
“It has very significant consequences for sickness, hospitalisations, ICU and mortality. It’s too high a price for everybody to pay for right now for where we are at.”
Mr Reid added that the health serviced had achieved a milestone of administering more than 120,000 vaccine doses last week.
He added that as of March 31st, almost 820,000 doses had been administered, with more than 600,000 being first doses.
The move to an age-based system for the Covid-19 vaccination programme will “ultimately deliver for the greater good for everybody”, he said, welcoming the changes to the programme announced by the Government earlier this week.
After the most vulnerable and people over 70 have been inoculated, the rollout will be based on age groups, and not occupations as previously planned.
“The scientific evidence behind the decision is very clear and very strong,” Mr Reid said.
“Age is the major risk factor for severe illness with Covid-19 and this is why the change has been recommended and made.”
He added that the move will provide the HSE with greater clarity in planning for the months ahead.
“I think ultimately it will deliver for the greater good for everybody,” he said.
Mr Reid also said he shared in feeling “anger” at the news that fee-paying school teachers were vaccinated at the private Beacon Hospital.
“The news of what happened last week that emerged in relation to some vaccines at the Beacon Hospital, and about how vaccines were used inappropriately, has caused understandable anger and I do indeed share that feeling of anger,” he said.
“Programmes that are publicly funded are not there to be allocated on any other basis other than fairness and transparency.”
It comes as the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that Ireland’s plan to ramp up its vaccine rollout in April has been dealt a blow, with a drop in the expected number of vaccines delivered this month.
Meanwhile, Health Minster Stephen Donnelly was branded “incompetent” during heated exchanges on the vaccine rollout in the Dáil earlier on Thursday.