Government not considering return to homeworking, says minister

Stephen Donnelly said it is not something that is being actively considered at the current time.
Government not considering return to homeworking, says minister

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Minister for Health has ruled out a return to working from home.

Stephen Donnelly said he has not received any advice on the issue and it is not something the Government is “actively considering”.

His comments come after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan hinted that a recommendation for people to work from home may be on the table.

Dr Holohan said health officials are “considering” the recommendation.

Cabinet meeting – Dublin
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said a return to homeworking is not being considered (PA)

It is being discussed by the National Public Health Emergency Team, which is meeting on Thursday to discuss how to deal with high infection rates in the community.

Mr Donnelly told Newstalk: “I haven’t received any advice to that end and it’s not something that Government is actively considering at the moment.”

He said 25,000 new cases of Covid have been detected in the last week.

“That’s about one in every 200 people in the country, man, woman and child, has been identified as a new case in the last week,” he added.

“Let’s do the thing we can all do, which means we don’t need to shut things down, which is to reduce our social contacts and get this disease back under control.

“It doesn’t mean not having your Christmas party, what it means in the round, when you look at everything you’re doing, do the things that are most important to you and the more discretionary ones just for now, just cut them out.”

Meanwhile, Catherine Martin, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, said the HSE’s hotline for Covid-19 may be tailored to allow members of the public to report hospitality businesses that do not ask for Covid passes.

“Regarding the calls for a hotline, where a person has a concern that the requirements of the regulations are not being complied with, he or she may communicate this via the HSE live helpline on 1800 700700,” she told the Dail.

“It should be noted that anybody doing so would have to press number three, which is the other issues category.

“It might be useful to tailor the helpline to allow members of the public to report specific instances in a more targeted manner.

“This is something we will communicate to the Department of Health as the HSE is under the remit of that department.

“It will be a subject of discussion between officials in the Department of Health, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and my department.”

Ms Martin said firms which break the rules could face a fine or the threat of closure.

“We are appealing to businesses that are not checking for certificates, because it is not fair to the other businesses and it is not fair for public health,” she added.

“For both reasons, to protect public health and to help the businesses that have been through such a tough time to keep their businesses open, everybody should abide by the rules.”

Elsewhere, people in the Mid-West are being urged to limit their contact with others.

In a statement on Twitter, a spokeswoman for Public Health Mid-West asked people in Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary to cut back on social activity.

“Infection rates have doubled in the region in recent weeks, similar to January levels,” she said.

“Unlike the January wave, we are seeing a lower incidence of illness and death thanks to the successful vaccination programme, thus far.

“However, due to the sharp escalation in new cases in recent weeks, breakthrough infections with serious outcomes are more likely to occur.

“We continue to encourage everyone to register for a free Covid-19 vaccine, to avail of a second dose if you have not already done so, and if eligible to avail of the booster vaccine when you receive your text message from the HSE.

“Over the past 14 days (as of November 8), there were 3,374 COVID-19 cases in the Mid-West region; 1,801 in Limerick, 1,027 in Clare, and 546 in North Tipperary. Of these, 79% are aged 18+, 5% are aged 12-17, 13% are aged 5-11, and 3% are aged 0-4.

“Public Health Mid-West is managing outbreaks in nursing homes, long-term residential care facilities, healthcare settings, workplaces, education settings, and a range of settings in the community.

“Pre-pandemic levels of social activity is a factor in the high prevalence of infection in the community, causing significant onward transmission in multiple settings.

“In terms of contact tracing and surveillance, the current widespread level of infection is placing significant pressure on our ability to visualise the complete disease profile in the region.”

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