Video: Health staff absentees, snow and ice warning in place, Golfgate trial latest

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Kenneth Fox

Healthcare staff absentees

The number of health service staff off work due to Covid-19 could be double the official figure, the chief executive of the HSE has said.

Paul Reid said on Thursday that at least 8,500 staff are absent due to infection or being a close contact, amounting to one in eight staff in the health service.

However, he warned the true number could be twice this manual count - now a week old - due to the acceleration of infections over the past week.

Status yellow warning

Hail, sleet and snow showers are forecast to fall on the island shortly as a Met Éireann weather warning comes into force this afternoon.

The status-yellow snow and ice warning for the Republic takes effect at 4pm, while a similar alert for Northern Ireland from the UK Met Office will begin at 8pm. Both warnings will remain in place until 11am on Friday.

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Met Éireann has warned of scattered showers of hail, sleet and snow, along with icy stretches, from Thursday evening through to Friday morning.

Golfgate trial evidence

The trial of two politicians and two hoteliers over their alleged breach of Covid restrictions in organising a golf society dinner has heard that several witnesses due to give evidence for the prosecution have “bouts of ill health”.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, Senior Counsel Eddie Walsh, appearing for hotelier John Sweeney, told Galway district court that it is unclear whether these witnesses had a definitive PCR test or “simply appear unwell and don’t wish to be here”.

Some 51 potential witnesses are set to be called in a trial that is expected to last at least two days.

John Sweeney (60) and his son James Sweeney (32), along with Galway East Independent TD Noel Grealish (55) and former Fianna Fáil senator Donie Cassidy (75) are all on trial for contravention of health regulations associated with the pandemic.

New penalties

The penalty for parking on footpaths, cycle tracks and bus lanes is being doubled under new regulations.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan announced the fine for motorists will increase from €40 to €80 from February 1st.

He said the increased penalty aims to encourage both active travel and a “more considerate” use of road space.

Trump comments

Former US president Donald Trump accused President Joe Biden of invoking his name in remarks to further divide the nation on the one-year anniversary of Trump supporters' deadly January 6th attack on the US Capitol.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, "used my name today to try to further divide America," said Mr Trump, a Republican, in a written statement following a speech by Mr Biden at the Capitol marking the anniversary.

"This political theater is all just a distraction," Mr Trump added.

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