A further 1,049 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Ireland, as the Minister for Health said children under the age of 12 are unlikely to be eligible for vaccination this year.
Stephen Donnelly also said that a vaccine booster programme will begin this week for those who are immunocompromised, with those above 80 and those in nursing homes being offered a third dose from next week onwards.
Mr Donnelly was asked about signals that children between the ages of five and 11 will be offered Covid-19 vaccines and he said the issue is being examined but indicated a decision is not imminent, according to The Irish Times.
“We are looking at that at the moment obviously. No recommendation has come in on that, the conversations that the Chief Medical Officer and I have had is that we wouldn’t be expecting anything like that in this calendar year,” he said.
“We will keep that under very close review,” he added.
Mr Donnelly also defended changes to the contact tracing system in schools, as Monday brought an end to the tracing of asymptomatic cases in the classroom.
Children aged under 13 who are close contacts of confirmed cases in schools or childcare are also no longer required to self-isolate from September 27th if they are symptom-free.
Mr Donnelly said the decision was taken on foot of “the very best advice from the Nphet”.
“It is something that the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and I have discussed at great length” he said, adding that the “the recommendation is coming because of such encouraging results from the schools”.
“So obviously we had a huge number of students and teachers go back and what we are seeing is that the rate of infection is stable and many people are staying it is actually falling,” he said.
“Positivity has been low and remains low and what it looks like is that the level of infection within the schools is in fact lower for that age group than outside the schools.”
It comes after HSE chief executive Paul Reid said it was safer for children to be at school than at home in terms of the risk for Covid transmission.
As of this morning, there were 310 patients hospitalised with Covid-19, with 66 in intensive care.