Covid: Further 3,633 cases as Holohan says cancelling social plans a ‘responsible decision’

ireland
Covid: Further 3,633 Cases As Holohan Says Cancelling Social Plans A ‘Responsible Decision’ Covid: Further 3,633 Cases As Holohan Says Cancelling Social Plans A ‘Responsible Decision’
Dr Tony Holohan said modelling shows there could be more than 200,000 cases of Covid-19 in December. Photo: PA
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By James Ward, Cate McCurry and Dominic McGrath, PA

A further 3,633 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic, the Department of Health said.

As of Wednesday morning, there were 634 patients in hospitals with the disease, including 119 in intensive care.

Another 43 deaths due to Covid-19 have been newly notified in the past week, bringing the total number of deaths in the State to 5,609.

The update comes as the chief medical officer said cancelling plans to socialise in the run-up to Christmas would be a “responsible decision”.

Dr Tony Holohan said there could be 200,000 Covid-19 infections in December, but this could be prevented.

He said workplaces would have to decide if office Christmas parties should go ahead.

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“People are making these kinds of decisions as ways of reducing their own risk and ways of reducing the risk to their loved ones and their friends and family and so on,” he said, when asked if people should cut down on socialising.

“These are responsible decisions. Decisions that nobody wants to be taking it this time of the year, of course. We all understand the value of Christmas, particularly in this country. To me, those are responsible decisions now that people are making.”

Dr Holohan said the same reasoning should apply to office Christmas parties.

He told RTÉ News at One: “An organisation, looking at itself and looking at the kinds of measures that it now needs to take, when we’re advising people to stay at home as much as possible and work from home, those would be responsible decisions, if they were to be taken.”

 

The chief medical officer said he understood this was difficult for people to hear, but warned that National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) modelling projects there could be more than 200,000 cases of Covid-19 next month.

“What we’re trying to prevent is potentially 200,000 – maybe double that – people over the course of the month of December picking up this infection,” he said.

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“I stress, none of those people are infected yet. If we have 200,000 people infected in December, 4,000 of them will end up in hospital at Christmas.

“We will see 200,000 people being asked to self-isolate over the Christmas period, where they can’t meet up with or shouldn’t meet up with friends, family or anybody else that are important to them.

“These are huge impacts that will be placed on the population at this time of the year, if we don’t find it within ourselves to improve our collective adherence.

“And so, taking those measures around workplaces, to my mind would be very simple measures to cut down discretionary social contact.”

No play dates

Minister for Education Norma Foley urged parents not to organise birthday parties or play dates for their children in the coming weeks.

She said the chief medical officer had said “very clearly that we need to minimise our social interactions”.

She added: “We have seen the return to play dates and birthday parties and things like that.

“I think there’s a call now that we would minimise [that] and we would draw down again and revert to what we have done in the past.”

Minister for Education Norma Foley. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Representatives from the hospitality sector met with officials from the Department of Tourism on Wednesday to discuss the new measures.

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It is understood that industry representatives called for additional supports for the sector, as well as expressing concerns about the potential for further restrictions in the near future.

Antigen testing

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed on Wednesday that antigen testing will not be free, saying the Government is planning to subsidise the cost.

A single test usually costs around €8, which Mr Donnelly admitted is not affordable for everyone as people will be expected to take multiple tests.

The Government has announced fresh measures to address a worrying rise in Covid cases, which has left the health system under severe pressure heading into the winter.

They include more general use of antigen testing, particularly for people who socialise more often.

Earlier this year, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Prof Mark Ferguson published a report in which he recommended the introduction of rapid tests.

Mr Donnelly defended the speed of the Government’s response to the report, saying thousands of tests are sent to people who are deemed close contacts, higher education settings, nursing homes and childcare settings.

He said the final details on subsidising the antigen tests will be worked out soon.

A midnight closing time will be imposed for pubs and restaurants from Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government on Tuesday agreed that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants in Ireland will have a midnight closing time from Thursday. Residents of hotels will be exempt.

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People will also be urged to work from home from Friday, if they can.

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Donnelly says antigen tests will not be free excep...
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Mr Donnelly said there are no plans to extend any of the financial measures, including the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).

He also said further restrictions cannot be ruled out. Asked if the Republic is heading for another lockdown, Mr Donnelly said no-one could answer that question.

The Fianna Fáil minister said the impact of the new restrictions is expected to take effect in three weeks.

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