By Cate McCurry, PA
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he believes the country can get through the summer wave of Covid infections without the need to bring in fresh restrictions.
Mr Varadkar made the comment after the chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, said they are considering making a recommendation to Government to make masks mandatory in some settings.
Mr Reid and Colm Henry, the chief clinical officer of the HSE, have both raised concerns about the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
Dr Henry said he is “very concerned” about the spike in the number of people in hospital with the virus.
As of Monday morning, there were 606 people in hospital with Covid-19.
Mr Varadkar said: “As always, the case will be guided by public health advice on these.
“The current advice from the CMO (chief medical officer) is that we don’t need to extend the mask mandate, that we continue to encourage it in healthcare settings and obviously on public transport as well, but not that it would be legally mandatory.
“We are seeing a summer wave of infections, over 600 people in hospital today who are positive Covid but half of them would be in hospital anyway.
“But nonetheless, it is an increase. And I think we will get over this summer wave without the need to impose any new restrictions, but obviously we will be guided by public health advice in that regard.”
Dr Henry said the rise in infections is being driven by a sub-type of the Omicron variant.
He told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne said that while the variant is more transmissible, it does not appear to be more virulent.
“While hospitalisations are going up, we are seeing ICU numbers steady which is of some assurance,” he added.
“Those who previously had immunity from previous variants, be they Delta or otherwise, can get infected again but they are much less likely to get seriously ill.”
He also urged the public to get vaccinated, saying the “harsh reality” was that over half of those in hospital with Covid did not receive their booster jab.
He also said that over a third were not vaccinated.