Video: Cabinet meets over Covid, subsidised antigen tests, air pollution drops

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Cabinet meets over latest Covid-19 surge

The Cabinet has been meeting to discuss the latest Covid-19 situation amid a rise in cases and hospitalisations.

It is understood that Government ministers are considering whether to continue business supports into the New Year.

As reported in The Irish Times, allowing new entrants into the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) past the cut-off point is under consideration, as well as extending the system of Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) payments if there are further closures.

However, no changes to the current supports are expected this week.

This comes as a further 5,634 cases were reported on Monday. Speaking about the case numbers, Dr Tony Holohan warned that 20 to 25 people will end up in hospital for every 1,000 cases, with two or three people requiring critical care in intensive care units.

Subsidised antigen tests delayed

Draft plans for a long-awaited scheme to subsidise antigen tests were drawn up on Monday and were due go to Cabinet, however this has been delayed.

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It is understood plans are still being finalised.

It is further understood that the initial proposal envisaged rolling out the programme through pharmacies first, with a discount of around €4 per test across the board, but this was still under discussion on Monday evening.

Air pollution drops during lockdown

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has highlighted a large decrease in air pollution from traffic in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Air pollution from traffic - nitrogen dioxide (NO2) - fell at all monitoring stations, but most notably at urban traffic locations where levels fell by up to 50 per cent.

The new data comes as the EPA launched its annual Air Quality in Ireland report for 2020.

The report found that while air quality in Ireland is “generally good”, as pollution levels were above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines at 52 monitoring stations.

However, heating homes by burning solid fuel remains the biggest contributor to poor air quality in Ireland.

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