Politics

Omicron accounts for 27% of new Covid-19 cases, Donnelly tells Dáil


Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the Omicron variant now represents 27 per cent of all new Covid-19 cases.

Mr Donnelly said people in their 40s will begin to receive appointments for their booster shots next week and they will begin to be administered the following week.

The Minister was providing an update on Covid-19 in the Dáil alongside the Minister for Education Norma Foley.

“Last week the Omicron variant made up about 1 per cent of all new cases in Ireland. By the weekend it was up to 5 per cent.

“On Tuesday, the rate reported was 14 per cent. Today, just two days later, I can confirm to the House that the Omicron variant now comprised over 27 per cent of all new cases,” Mr Donnelly said.

Mr Donnelly said it is “an urgent situation” with the Omicron variant “spreading rapidly”.

The State’s public health team met on Thursday to discuss tightening rules with restrictions on large sporting events and hospitality as well as warnings about large family gatherings and house parties under consideration.

Despite the spread of Omicron, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night that schools would not close early and would reopen as scheduled next year.

Ministers expect to tighten some restrictions after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meeting, but sources say there is a sense that severe lockdown-type measures are not likely to be considered.

Christmas gatherings

People may be asked to avoid large gatherings and to cut their close contacts in the lead-up to Christmas. Nphet will also likely discuss rules on tightening restrictions around sporting events over Christmas and around large family gatherings and house parties. People may also be asked to increase their use of antigen tests, particularly before meeting elderly relatives.

On travel, the Government is favouring an EU-wide approach, and harsh new restrictions are not expected as Omicron looks set to be the dominant variant next week.

Cabinet is expected to meet on Friday to discuss any new recommendations from Nphet, and decide whether to accept that advice.There has been speculation that opening hours for hospitality may be examined, with the possibility of earlier closing times under consideration.

The head of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, last night said any further restrictions on hospitality “will have a devastating economic impact on businesses”.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Mr Donnelly said the UK recorded its highest number of cases in one day since the pandemic began with more than 78,600 new cases. “We know it’s going to result in an increase in cases very soon in Ireland as well,” he added.

Mr Donnelly said about 1.4 million booster shots had been administered to date, placing Ireland third in the European Union and eighth in the world in terms of the percentage of adults who have had a booster.

He said the aim was that by the end of the year, everyone in the higher risk groups would have received their booster shot or got an appointment.

High-risk children will start to be vaccinated next week initially via the paediatric hospitals, then through vaccine centres, Mr Donnelly said.

From December 28th, the online portal will open for parents with higher-risk children and vaccinations for these children will begin from January 3rd.

From mid-January vaccination centres will open to other children, alongside other adult cohorts.



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