Video: Varadkar insists HSE is prepared for virus surge; Dublin Airport homecomings

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Winter health pressures

The Taoiseach has told the HSE to immediately deploy all available resources, including the potential use of private hospitals, to address mounting winter pressures within the State's health system.

Leo Varadkar, who had a scheduled meeting with HSE management on Friday, said overtime should also be used to minimise the suffering and inconvenience to patients.

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The Taoiseach insisted the Government had made preparations for a sharp increase in patients over the winter months and highlighted that almost 1,000 additional hospital beds were available compared with two years ago.

Christmas travel

About 98,000 passengers are expected to arrive and depart through Dublin Airport on Friday, in what is expected to be the busiest travel day of the Christmas period.

More than 1 million passengers will pass through the airport over the next 12 days, according to the operator DAA.

Graeme McQueen, media relations manager for DAA, said the numbers travelling this year will be up by around 95 per cent on the same period last year.

Varadkar and Northern Ireland

Leo Varadkar has insisted any personal concerns over his safety will not deter him from visiting the North.

Mr Varadkar, who became Taoiseach for a second time last week, has become deeply unpopular within some sections of unionism and loyalism who claim he was an instrumental figure in the creation of the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol as part of the UK's post-Brexit trade deal.

The Fine Gael leader said he aims to travel to Northern Ireland in the early new year as he signalled that resolving the impasse over the protocol is his priority.

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