Covid: 5,483 new cases as Government considers a return to working from home

The National Public Health Emergency Team has recommended the move as one of a number of measures to tackle rising Covid cases.
Covid: 5,483 new cases as Government considers a return to working from home

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Department of Health has been notified of 5,483 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, which is one of the highest ever daily figures recorded by the State.

As of 8am today they said 549 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised and 96 people are in ICU.

The high number of cases comes as the Government will make a decision next week on whether to advise people to once again work from home, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking about the latest figures, Dr Tony Holohan said there has been a significant increase in the incidence rate of Covid-19 across all age groups.

“As we look ahead to the weekend, we need to continue to make every effort we can to drive down incidence of disease and break the chains of transmission,” Dr Holohan said.

“Before you leave the house, think about the number of people you are going to meet, and the risk associated with the activities you have planned.”

Dr Holohan advised people to reduce their social contacts, wear masks correctly and meet outdoors where possible.

“There are currently 549 people in hospital, 96 people are receiving critical care and this disease continues to have a very significant impact on families, communities and across the health service.

“If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, you should assume that you have this virus, self-isolate immediately and arrange a test. Do not assume that it’s just a cough or a cold.”

Working from home

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended a return to working from home as part of a number of measures to tackle rising Covid cases.

In a letter outlining its recommendations, Nphet also says people who regularly go to bars, nightclubs and the cinema should take antigen tests twice a week before going out.

The expert group said this should apply to people who engage in higher risk activities, involving indoor contact sports and multi-household visits.

Nphet also recommends extending the use of the Covid pass to close contact services and activities outside hospitality businesses.

However, it did not identify which businesses or activities it would apply to.

Nphet urged the Government to consider reinstating its previous advice to work from home where possible.

The recommendations come following a meeting to assess ways to bring down transmission in the community ahead of Christmas.

The Taoiseach said he received the letter on Friday morning.

Speaking in Galway, he said: “I think the first point I would make is the numbers are increasing and that is a concern and therefore the main point of Nphet’s advice is on all of us to restrict socialisation, to monitor our behaviour.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Government will consider Nphet’s advice next week. © PA Wire/PA Images

He said Nphet also recommends further mask-wearing, particularly in outdoor sporting events, large crowds and in congregated settings.

“For people who have vulnerabilities or underlying conditions, that medical grade masks would be worn and that we generally overall try and reduce socialisation and then cumulatively that would have an impact,” Mr Martin added.

The Government has adopted a phased return-to-work policy since September.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office estimate that around 50% of workers have returned to the office since then.

On a return to working from home, Mr Martin added: “We will give consideration to that advice. Nphet references the advice of Sage in the UK, in respect of travelling to and from work and the increased socialisation that occurs as a result of that.”

He said employers and trade unions have been working effectively to implement work safety protocols.

“We will make a decision early next week in relation to that,” the Fianna Fáil leader added.

“The over-arching advice really is around communicating to the public the fact that the cases are increasing.

“The vaccination is working in terms of maintaining some degree of stability around admissions to hospitals, ICUs and mortality.

“The booster campaign, the Nphet letter says, is effective, particularly now in the over-80s where we can see declining numbers getting ill.

“We expect to see that continue on to the over-60s and healthcare workers, so the continued rollout of the booster campaign will also be an important element in terms of dealing with this acute phase of the pandemic.”

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