Video: Doubts over easing of restrictions, EU unveils Protocol proposals, Gsoc powers discussed

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No guarantee next phase of reopening will go ahead on October 22nd

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he cannot guarantee that the planned date of October 22nd to lift remaining Covid restrictions will go ahead.

He spoke after a meeting of senior officials on Wednesday morning, during which the deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn made a “serious” presentation.

“The trajectory of the diseases has taken a wrong turn,” Mr Martin said. “There has been what was described as a sudden increase in the last week of case numbers. I think we’re looking at over 2,000 case numbers today.

“They want to see more data, they want to analyse this a bit more, so we are going to reflect on it, and we will engage with the public health authorities and the HSE over the coming days.

“We will make a final decision closer to that date (October 22nd), but suffice to say that it’s very, very important that the public at large realise that Covid has not gone away. The Delta variant is a dangerous one, numbers are higher in hospitals than we would like (them) to be, there are over 400. They’re having an impact on the hospital system.

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“Those out there who haven’t got the vaccine, I would urge people to get the vaccine, because it does protect you from serious illness and hospitalisation and death. People should go back to the basics. This is an alert to all of us to knuckle down and refocus on this virus because it hasn’t gone away.”

Covid restrictions

The removal of all remaining Covid-19 restrictions has been called into question amid rising hospitalisations.

Although case numbers have stabilised, they have done so at a high level. "The pandemic has not gone away, and it requires all of us to continue to be careful," Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned.

The remaining restrictions are due to be eased on October 22nd, which will proceed as planed, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, unless there is “compelling evidence” not to do so.

Budget reaction

Government ministers are defending Budget 2022 after it was unveiled on Tuesday.

The €4.7 billion spending package included an increase of 30 cent for the minimum wage, a €5 increase in the State pension and a €5 increase in the weekly fuel allowance. However, opposition parties claim the measures do not go far enough to address matters such as the rising cost of living, while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the budget "did nothing" for renters.

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Despite this, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said most people will be "better off" under the changes.

Student protest

Students are protesting in Dublin City Centre in response to a letter sent to University College Dublin's (UCD) Student Union from Dublin City Council's chief executive Owen Keegan.

UCDSU wrote to Mr Keegan to highlight their concerns over 571 student flats being converted into short-term tourist accommodation, to which the chief executive replied: "If you genuinely believe that excess profits are being made in the PBSA [purpose-built student accommodation] market, I am surprised the students’ union has not entered the market itself and provided lower-cost student accommodation for its members."

Mr Keegan's remarks drew widespread criticism, being described as "snide", "flippant" and "dismissive". Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he thought the remark was "insulting", adding that when he first read the letter he thought it was a Waterford Whispers article.

Protocol proposals

The European Commission is due to propose the removal of the vast majority of post-Brexit checks on food from Britain to Northern Ireland and a significant reduction in customs controls, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said.

The sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks required for British goods destined for the North and staying there would be dropped if proper sharing of data and labelling was introduced, Simon Coveney said.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has criticised the UK's approach to the protocol, warning global political leaders against entering into any agreements with the British government until they are confident it will keep its promises.

Gsoc powers

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors' (AGSI) annual conference is taking place on Wednesday, with the group discussing new powers which are due to be extended to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) and the Policing Authority.

Speaking earlier, AGSI representative Superintendent Declan McCarthy said the group has no problem with oversight and governance, however, he said some of the new measures were “almost draconian”.

Covid figures

A further 2,066 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the State today.

There are 408 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 69 in intensive care units.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil on Wednesday, a day after the Government delivered a €4.7 billion Budget, that people should not be complacent in the face of rising Covid-19 cases.

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