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Tuesday 30 November 2021
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Covid Cabinet sub committee discuss compliance, antigen tests and boosters

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says there are concerns about the level of infection among healthcare workers and patients in hospital.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE CABINET SUB committee on Covid has wrapped up this evening having reviewed the latest information on case numbers as well as hospitalisations and ICU figures.

Speaking earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he didn’t expect “any big Covid decisions to be made at the meeting”.

It is understood that compliance was discussed at tonight’s meeting – not just within the late night entertainment industry – but by all. 

Booster shots as well as antigen testing being used on asymptomatic people was also mentioned this evening.

It is understood that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) are due to meet soon to consider the matter of boosters for those other than the over 60s, which has already been agreed.

There was no discussion about the re-imposing of restrictions, it is understood.

As of 8am this morning, there were 513 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 97 are in ICU.

Yesterday, there were 1,725 new cases of Covid-19, 497 people with the virus in hospital and 99 in ICU.

Varadkar confirmed to The Journal this afternoon that there are concerns both about the rising case numbers among healthcare workers as well hospital acquired Covid infections in patients.

Over the weekend, the Irish Nurse and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said it is concerned that the Covid-19 infection rate among healthcare workers.

The union has renewed its call for booster vaccines against the virus to be rolled out to frontline staff.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) report from 2-9 October shows that 92 staff members are understood to have acquired the virus in a healthcare setting.

From the 10-16 October, 85 staff are believed to have acquired the virus in a healthcare setting.

In addition, from the 2-9 October, the HSPC states that 73 patients acquired Covid-19 in a hospital or healthcare environment. This figure is separate to community transmission, and relates to patients who were infected while being cared for in a setting such as a hospital.

The following week, the HSPC report states that 113 patients acquired the virus in a healthcare setting.

When asked about the spread of the virus within hospitals the HSE said in a statement that “it is important to note that when community transmission rates are at the level they are, it is inevitable and unavoidable that there will be outbreaks in hospitals”.

It added that it is not possible to determine from the data what percentage of the people in hospital on a given day are people with hospital acquired infection.

It said there is extensive testing of people on admission to hospital and while in hospital to help find people with infection as quickly as possible so that measures can be taken to reduce the risk of spread of infection to others.

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Speaking to The Journal, Sinn Féín’s health spokesperson David Cullinane said the increase in infection among those working in hospitals as well as patients being cared for in hospitals is a “cause for concern”. 

With the level of overcrowding already being seen in a number of hospitals as we head into winter, it is inevitable that there will be an increase in Covid cases within the healthcare settings, he said. 

Hospitals are already near capacity, said Cullinane, who said that some emergency departments are “overflowing” which in turn will result in infection rates increasing. 

For these reasons, Cullinane said it is vital that those working on the frontline are given the booster jab “as soon as possible”.

Varadkar said today that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has forecast that case numbers will continue to rise in the week ahead.

The Tánaiste said this will translate into an increase in hospitalisations and ICU numbers in the coming weeks, but added that they expect to see a fall in the figures in December and into the Christmas period.

While he said the government cannot take anything for granted when it comes to the pandemic, it will continue to focus on the three-pronged approach of the vaccine booster for the over 60s, the continued wearing of face masks in some settings and social distancing, as well as contact tracing.

However, he acknowledged that it is going to be a “difficult” winter for the health service.

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