Rebecca Black, PA
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is not currently contemplating reintroducing restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19.
On Tuesday a further 3,726 cases of the virus were notified, the highest number reported since mid-January 2021. There were also 493 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 90 were in intensive care.
The 14-day incidence now stands at 695 per 100,000, an increase of 18 per cent on last week, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
However, Mr Donnelly said measures are being rolled out to stem the spread of the virus.
“There is no discussion about that (reintroducing tougher restrictions), why, because we have a plan that we know can work,” he told RTÉ 1’s Primetime programme.
He said this involved relying on people’s behaviour but also rolling out booster vaccines and bringing back serial testing in nursing homes, the extension of the Covid pass, and increasing PCR testing.
“There are a lot of things the Government is doing that we know can and will work,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said further restrictions are “not the focus right now because right now that’s not what is needed”.
“The country has gone through a huge amount of pain and suffering and sacrifice for us to be able to open up our country,” he said.
“We have done well, but as I say, we have a plan, Government has to act and we are. Industry is doing a lot, there is a lot of compliance but there are still too many in industry who aren’t applying the Covid pass and the ID.
“Enforcement is part of it, but right from the start we have relied on people doing the right thing … the fines are pretty steep as it is and there is a graduated response, including having your premises shut down.
“Does there need to be more enforcement, yes, and we are working with the HSE on that but critically if we were to rely on enforcement for every pub, every restaurant, we would fail, as a nation, not as government.”
Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly also urged the remaining 7 per cent of the population who have not received the Covid-19 vaccination to come forward for the jab.
“That 7 per cent represent about half the Covid hospital cases and about 60 per cent of the ICU cases, it’s so important that 7 per cent now takes the opportunity, particularly with this new surge, to do the right thing and get vaccinated,” he added.
Earlier this week, Mr Donnelly gave the green light for booster vaccines for health workers.
On Tuesday, he said some 1.3 million people will qualify for booster jabs, including the medically vulnerable, the elderly and health workers.
In the Dáil, Mr Donnelly proposed extending emergency legislation which is due to expire on November 9th, to February 9th. TDs will vote on this on Wednesday night.
Earlier chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Covid-19 is “circulating widely” but “we have the tools to limit its spread”.
“We know that vaccination is very successful at preventing severe illness and hospitalisation, and I urge anyone who still needs to get their Covid vaccine to do so,” he said.
“We also know that, even when vaccinated, we still need to practise basic public health interventions – washing our hands, opening windows, wearing masks and, most importantly, staying home when we have symptoms.
“These simple measures are very successful at breaking the chains of transmission of this disease.
“As we practise all elements of the public health advice, we keep ourselves, and our communities, safe.”