Ireland in midst of second Omicron wave but no return of restrictions

Ireland is in the midst of another Covid-19 wave but restrictions will not be reimposed, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The Fine Gael leader also said that an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic could be set up within the next few months and would likely hear from senior figures, such as chief medical officer Tony Holohan.

His comments came after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said over the weekend that he didn’t want a situation where senior personnel were looking over their shoulders in future while making key decisions during a crisis.

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 increased by 48 on Sunday, bringing the total number of patients being treated for the virus to 1,175, the highest number of hospitalisations since February of last year.

“I think it is another wave,” Mr Varadkar said. “What’s happening across Europe now is a second wave of Omicron if you like.

But I don’t think it is going to require the reimposition of restrictions. About half of those in hospital with Covid would be in hospital anyway, it is an incidental finding in their cases.

Also because of the vaccines even though case numbers are high, the number of people getting sick, the number of people being hospitalised, requiring ICU treatment, thankfully the number of people dying, is very low.

This is another wave but we don’t anticipate it will necessitate the reimposition of restrictions.”

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU



Mr Varadkar said while the current case numbers were “a cause for concern” they were “not a cause for panic.” “We are monitoring the situation very tightly.”

He said the Government is considering whether a fourth vaccine dose needs to be started for those who are elderly or medically vulnerable. He said the expectation is that a fourth dose would be recommended to commence “around the middle of the year” rather than closer to the end of the year.

The Tánaiste also said that discussions have taken place on the planned inquiry into Ireland’s handling of the pandemic, but a decision has not yet been reached on the format.

“We haven’t made a decision on the format of the inquiry yet. We do believe it is important that we have an inquiry into how the pandemic was handled in Ireland.

“If you look at the numbers, Ireland has one of the lowest excess mortality rates in Europe and indeed the world and that says to us that we as a society did a lot of things right, but we did not do everything right and I think it’s important that we work out and establish what we did right and what we could have done better.”

He said while the Government did not want to see senior figures “hauled over the coals”, it was envisaged that people who were involved in the response, including those in Government and in senior positions in the HSE and the Department of Health, would give evidence.

Mr Varadkar said the inquiry was not about “getting” people but was to try to to establish which decisions were correct and what could have been done better so we “ could be better prepared for another pandemic if it happens in our lifetime.”

“We would certainly envisage having the inquiry up and running this year, if not in the next couple of months.

“One thing we do need to bear in mind is that many of the people who would be asking to take part in the inquiry to give evidence are also the people still battling the pandemic.

“We don’t want them spending several days a week preparing statements and questions when we need them doing their frontline jobs.”

Mr Varadkar was speaking at a national ceremony of remembrance and reflection which took place in Dublin in memory of all those who died during the pandemic.

The ceremony, which was held in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin City Centre, also paid tribute to those involved in safeguarding Ireland from Covid-19.

Wreaths were laid by front-line healthcare workers, transport workers, volunteers, public health doctors and contact tracers amongst others.

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