A further 5,622 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Saturday as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government’s plan to tackle the virus “is working”.
Hospitalisations for the disease fell below 500 for the first time since October on Saturday morning, with 487 people being treated in hospitals - down 41 on the day before. However, the number of patients in intensive care increased by four to 114.
Mr Varadkar urged the public to not “lose heart” amid new restrictions for the Christmas period.
“Number of people in hospital falls below 500 for first time since October,” he tweeted.
“Plan is working - 3rd doses, masks, test & isolate, physical distancing. Thank you for what you are doing. Please don’t lose heart. Let’s all have a safe Christmas.”
Number of people in hospital falls below 500 for first time since October. Plan is working - 3rd doses, masks, test & isolate, physical distancing. Thank you for what you are doing. Please don’t lose heart. Let’s all have a safe Christmas #protectourprogress pic.twitter.com/f6yypv4kO6
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) December 4, 2021
The Government has announced strict new limits on the hospitality sector and home visits as it moved to push down Covid infection rates, after “stark” warnings from officials that the new Omicron variant could add to pressure on the health service.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has warned that up to 1,700 people could be in hospital with Covid in early January, if the new Omicron variant becomes dominant and social contact increases to the levels seen last December.
While it is currently “impossible to quantify the level of risk” from Omicron, Nphet said, this may become clear only “when it may be too late to take mitigating measures”.
With the five-day moving average of new Covid cases currently standing at 4,691, former president of the Irish Medical Organisation Dr Martin Daly voiced support for the move to introduce further restrictions.
“The number of cases that we’re having at this time exceeds the cases that we were having at the peak in last January when so many people lost their lives,” he told Newstalk radio.
“The only thing that’s protecting the community at large is the large number of people that have been vaccinated, but we do have to recognise this new variant is an unknown quantity, and so the Government are right to take action now and restrict movement and congregation of people.”
Under the new restrictions, nightclubs will close from Tuesday until at least January 9th. Indoor hospitality will be limited to parties of six adults with table service only, and indoor cultural, entertainment and sporting events will be limited to half a venue’s capacity.
Advice has also been issued that households should not host more than three other households in their home, while the use of the Covid cert is to be extended to gyms and hotel bars and restaurants.
On Friday evening, tensions between the Government and its public health advisers re-emerged amid the unveiling of the new restrictions.
A number of Ministers are understood to have expressed frustrations over Nphet’s media strategy, and a formal decision was taken that all communications on Covid were now to be managed by and done through the Government Information Service.