Ireland’s fight against Covid-19 continues as case numbers remain high, with many restrictions still in place.
The Department of Health was notified of a further 14,555 cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, along with 5,406 positive antigen tests recorded through the HSE portal.
However, despite the high number of cases, current public health restrictions are expected to be reduced in the coming weeks.
NPHET to discuss further easing of restrictions
NPHET is expected to meet next week to discuss the possibility of reducing restrictions amid the current wave of the Omicron variant.
Rules around close contact and isolation periods were eased on Friday, with hospitality guidelines due to be debated at the end of next week.
The news will be a beacon of hope for businesses in the hospitality sector who have had to deal with changing restrictions over the past two years.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin says vaccine ‘game changer’
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the rollout of the vaccination program has helped reduce the effects of the Omicron variant.
Speaking on the RTE Late Late Show, he said: “To be frank with you, it’s stabilizing here, the progress is clear to see now, hospital levels are certainly stabilizing, and the severity of sick people is certainly in down from previous waves.
“I am (feel optimistic).
“Hospitalizations are stable. Omicron has not penetrated critical care to the degree that people feared, a large proportion of critical care numbers are still Delta patients.
“The cases are going down, although from a very high level, but they are going down.” I think we are going to get stronger in 2022, vaccines were a game changer and booster helped with Omicron.
“Stable appointment over the next week or two, I think by the end of next week we will be able to make decisions in terms of restrictions.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar gives hope for ‘normal’ 2022
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the summer of 2022 will be different from the last two years of the pandemic.
He said: “Over the past two summers Ireland had some of the strictest restrictions in Europe. I supported those restrictions, as did Fine Gael. In the summer of 2020 we had no In the summer of 2021, most of us weren’t fully vaccinated.
“But that is no longer the case, and that is why the summer of 2022 should be different. We at Fine Gael will advocate for a more ambitious reopening, not reckless or risky but rather in line with our European peers.
“Ireland is the only country I know where it hasn’t been possible to stand in a pub or go to work if you wanted to for almost two years. We’ve had the toughest and longest restrictions on the arts, sports, music and nightlife.
“It has been very hard for those who work in these sectors and for those for whom culture or sport is a passion. We must restore these individual freedoms as soon as it is safe, and not later. It is right to be prudent, but an abundance of prudence must not be an excess of it.”
HSE boss Paul Reid says Covid trends ‘give a lot of hope’
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the consistent set of Covid trends gives hope that the number of cases will continue to decline.
Taking to Twitter, he said: “A consistent set of Covid-19 trends gives a lot of hope. Hospital cases down to 940, intensive care down to 83 and fewer patients on oxygen. So far mitigated worst impacts. Please get your recall ASAP,” Reid said on Twitter.
Chief medical officer warns people must wear masks properly
Following the announcement of the number of cases on Saturday, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that although isolation periods for close contacts have been reduced, people should still do all they can to follow the public health measures.
In a statement, it said: “These latest guidelines place greater emphasis on the use by cases and close contacts of higher quality face masks, as opposed to cloth masks.”
Dr Holohan added: “Other protective measures, including strict limitation of social contact, are also advised for the full 10 days following a confirmed Covid-19 infection or close contact.
“These combined measures are intended to offset any increased risk of transmission that may result from the reduction and/or removal of the requirement to self-isolate or restrict movement.
Dr Holohan said it is now recommended that medical-grade or FFP2 masks be used by any confirmed case, close contact or symptomatic person over the age of 13, as well as people over the age of 60 or people vulnerable in crowded environments.
He said: “Masks can play a key role in reducing the transmission of Covid-19 if they are made correctly, fitted properly and worn correctly, i.e. they cover the nose, mouth and chin.”