Simon Harris says easing of restrictions is 'not a binary choice'

ireland
Simon Harris Says Easing Of Restrictions Is 'Not A Binary Choice'
Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris. Photo: PA
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Vivienne Clarke

Minister for Higher and Further Education Simon Harris has said it was not “a binary choice” whether to proceed with the easing of restrictions on October 22nd.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, the former Minister for Health said that the Government must decide if it will “proceed, pause or proceed with some safeguards”.

Despite the rise in cases in recent days, some perspective was needed, said Mr Harris as more than 91 per cent of people were vaccinated.

The question needed to be asked if there was a way to proceed with reopening while retaining vaccine certs and the wearing of face masks “for a bit longer”.

Mr Harris also urged the 70,000 people who had a first dose of the vaccine to come forward for a second dose.

With regard to a more widespread booster vaccine programme, the Minister said that that advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) was expected next week.

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Meanwhile, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor has said that the health service is going to do things in a different way to keep people out of hospital.

Hospital numbers

“It’s only October, but it’s like the first week in January,” she told Newstalk Breakfast of the figures attending emergency departments.

“Hospitals are very busy, there are significant numbers attending emergency departments, far in excess of what we saw in 2020 and 2019.” The numbers in major hospitals in Galway, Limerick and Cork were 25 per cent higher than 2019.

Ms O’Connor said that on Thursday night there were 100 hospital beds available out of 12,00 in the system. More frail and vulnerable people were being admitted, she added.

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The HSE was going to do things in a different way in an attempt to keep people out of hospital, there would be a focus on community care, utilising nursing homes for step down beds and home support. “It’s about having a range of options.”

The booster campaign was important as some people had been vaccinated ten months ago, she said. The HSE was awaiting a response from Niac about extending the current booster campaign.

Mr Harris said that “some big and bold decisions” were going to have to be made about contracts for consultants in an attempt to retain people.

Any advice in relation to the easing of restrictions needed to come from doctors not politicians, he said.

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