Cate McCurry, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he will wait for advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on whether people should be given a fourth Covid vaccine.
Mr Martin said a second booster would be the “key weapon” in the fight against Covid-19 during the autumn period.
The Fianna Fáil leader said Ireland is going through a disruptive phase of Covid, with the number of people in hospital with the virus rising steadily.
At 8am on Monday, there were 885 people in hospital with Covid, 33 of whom were in intensive care.
Mr Martin said that of the 885 people in hospital, half would have been seeking treatment for a reason other than Covid.
“That then has an impact on hospital services in terms of isolation protocols and in terms of delayed discharges from hospitals, the inability of nursing homes to take people in from hospitals as quickly or as normally as they would,” he added.
“Likewise in the workplace, we can see with Aer Lingus and the airlines where people are off sick with Covid and it’s led to the cancellation of flights.
“So that is a concern, that it remains a significant disruptive force in our society and in our community.
“What we also know is that the variants are not as virulent as they once were, and that’s a good thing.
“What I would really say to people is – we know when we came out of the emergency phase of Covid was when we got critical mass vaccinations into people’s arms.
“So for example, quite a number of people who are immunosuppressed are still not taking their second booster and they should. We will wait for Niac’s advice when related to the autumn period and in relation to whether a fourth dose is required, or a second booster.
“I think that would be the key weapon in the fight against Covid for the autumn period.
“We have to watch because different variants emerge at different times. The virus is still with us.
“We have sub-variants emerge, and they will have distinct characteristics and we have to trust the science and that science stays on top of it.
“I can’t predict with certainty what will happen because all I can predict is uncertainty.
“I think that’s why we’re making sure we have legislation, that if we had to bring back mask mandates for public transport, or indeed for retail, that we would be in a position to do that quickly.
“But again, we think we’ve moved out of the emergency phase, all the public health advice is through vaccination and through personal responsibility and people taking care.”
It comes as Dr Nuala O’Connor, the Covid-19 lead with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said people who have symptoms should not go to work and not send their children to summer camps.
She warned of a rise in cases after social events, including weddings and funerals.
“It’s the early symptoms that you have when you’re most infectious,” Dr O’Connor told RTÉ.
“Please do think about others who may be more vulnerable and stay at home.”