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Concern Covid wave plateauing at worryingly high level - RTE

Concern Covid wave plateauing at worryingly high level - RTE

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The Tánaiste has told a Fine Gael meeting tonight that the current Covid wave looks to be plateauing at a worryingly high level.

Leo Varadkar said "we do not want to be going into Christmas with this high a plateau".

He said the Covid trajectory is uncertain but everything would be done to avoid another lockdown.

The Fine Gael leader said he thinks people are responding positively to guidelines to stop the current wave.

He said the third dose programme is working and cases are falling in the over-70s.

Israel and the US offered positive evidence of the third dose vaccine, he told colleagues.

He also said that he anticipated a positive decision to vaccinate five- to 11-year-olds at a future stage and a subsidised antigen testing system should be finalised by Tuesday.

The Department of Health today confirmed 3,893 new cases of Covid-19.

There are 611 people with the virus in hospital, down 27 since yesterday. Of these, 132 are in ICU, which is two more than yesterday.

There has been a total of 5,652 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland. This includes 43 deaths newly notified in the past week.


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The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, told the Dáil earlier that booster vaccines for those with underlying conditions would begin next week.

Mr Donnelly said it is a "very important and necessary addition" to the vaccine programme, noting that 98% of vaccinated patients in ICU have an underlying condition.

"Over 630,000 doses have been administered in the third dose and booster programme," he said.

During statements on Covid-19, the minister also said they are seeing several EU countries reintroduce restrictions, and that steps being taken are "working in protecting our population".

He said demand for testing "remains extremely high".

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that approximately one in seven adults have had flu-like, cold-like, or Covid-like symptoms in the last week.

"The most important action you can take if you experience any symptoms of Covid-19 is to self-isolate immediately. This means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people, including, in so far as possible, those you live with.

"Arrange to take a PCR test, not an antigen test, and continue to self-isolate while you wait for your test and the results."

Dr Holohan added: "I understand this is difficult, but in order to avoid passing Covid-19 or other respiratory illnesses on to your friends, family or work colleagues, rapidly self-isolating as soon as symptoms begin is the most important thing you can do.

"It's also important to remember you still need to isolate for as long as you're symptomatic, and until 48 hours after your symptoms have settled, even if your PCR did not detect Covid-19."

There were 1,931 new infections and four deaths reported in Northern Ireland today.

Earlier today, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer said that the National Public Health Emergency Team may have to make new recommendations if there is further disimprovement in the trajectory of Covid-19.

However, Dr Ronan Glynn said that nothing is set in stone and it is "lots of small changes by people across the population" that will make the difference to the spread of the disease.

"We will have to see where we are in a week or ten days' time and if necessary, provide further advice at that point," he added.

Dr Glynn said NPHET will examine new data on Covid-19 tomorrow and look at updated modelling again next week.

It is only at this point, he explained, that NPHET will be able to say whether Ireland is headed towards the optimistic or pessimistic scenario modelling.

Dr Glynn said the latest modelling is from around ten days ago and he hopes a significant change in behaviour will change the trajectory of the disease.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Glynn said the positivity rate is plateauing, but at a high rate of 20%.

However, the majority of people are now hearing the message and cutting back on social contacts.

He explained that the positivity rate is just one indicator and the first priority is to prevent people from getting sick and ending up in hospital and dying.

He said that despite the high levels of disease in the country, much fewer cases are translating into serious hospitalisations, ICU and mortality.

Dr Glynn also called for anyone who plans to return home to visit their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles over Christmas to "rein in the socialising" in the intervening weeks.

He said that the hope is that the "vast majority of our population will be vaccinated and boosted in a few months' time, but we have a few difficult weeks ahead".

Dr Glynn said that last year there was a lot of inter-household mixing in the first two weeks of December and then this was followed by inter-generational mixing after 20 December that resulted in high infection rates.

He said that those aged over 50 need to be particularly careful in the coming weeks, adding "it is not for us to tell people you can't do anything in your life [but we are] telling the entire population to prioritise their discretionary social contacts".

He said that while there is concern about what the weeks ahead will bring for this country, there is an opportunity today to change the course of what happens.

"This is an avoidable disease, it's a preventable disease...we can avoid it."

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