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Some government optimism about Covid-19 situation as decision over restrictions imminent

An additional 17,065 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland today.
Jan 14th 2022, 5:29 PM 63,865 74

Updated Jan 14th 2022, 11:11 PM

HEALTH OFFICIALS HAVE reported an additional 17,065 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland today.

As of 8am this morning, 1,023 people were in hospital with the virus, 83 of whom were receiving treatment in intensive care.

Yesterday, there were 18,904 cases of Covid-19 reported, with 1,011 people in hospital and 92 in ICU.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show on RTÉ One tonight, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the country is seeing progress with Covid, and it is “stabilising”. 

He said he is feeling “optimistic” about the situation. “We’re certainly, I think, getting past the peak at this stage,” he said, adding that the vaccine programme was a “game changer”.

Asked about the possibility of a fourth jab, he said: “We’ve got to really look at this over a medium term and say what will our vaccination policy be in relation to COVID-19. I can certainly see the potential of four doses for the over 60s or for the immunocompromised. We may be looking ultimately at an annual vaccination program in respect of COVID-19.”

“By the end of next week we’ll be in a position to make decisions in terms of restrictions,” added the Taoiseach, saying that the country will have to learn to live with Covid-19 – but not in the sense of how we lived before the virus.

Martin said he hoped that hospitality restrictions will be gone by early February, but he couldn’t confirm this. 

He also said he doesn’t anticipate schools will close again, but that he understands the challenges facing children, teachers and parents. On the subject of the Leaving Certificate exams this summer, Martin said he’s not ruling out the hybrid model of exams but that he anticipated having an answer on this by the end of February.

Vaccinations

On Wednesday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) reported 83 deaths in the last week due to Covid-19, bringing Ireland’s total to 6,035. Last week, there were 40 deaths notified.

“We have seen exceptional levels of uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland. To date, 59% of the adult population here have availed of a booster dose, compared with just 32% across Europe,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said.

“The primary purpose of vaccination has always been to prevent serious illness and death – COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove remarkably effective in this regard and have provided significant protection to the most vulnerable and to our health system in recent weeks, with the booster dose restoring protection against severe disease to 90%. At present, just 20% of people in intensive care have been boosted,” Dr Holohan said.

“In addition, we know that those who have been boosted are less susceptible to infection and, if infected, are less infectious to others, compared with those who have not been boosted,” he said.

“It is important that those who have not yet availed of a booster vaccine now do so; appointments are available through vaccination centres, GPs and pharmacies.

“Finally, it is also very important that those who have not yet availed of any vaccine, for whatever reason, come forward for it as soon as possible.”

As of today, people are able to register their positive antigen test on the HSE website. 

The online system allows people to directly upload their own positive antigen test results and upload their close contacts. 

Close contacts will then get contacted in the same way that happens through the PCR system.

Logging an antigen test on the portal does not qualify people for a recovery cert, a PCR test or a professional antigen test is required to receive the certificate. 

It’s understood that a breakdown of Covid-19 positive cases reported through PCRs and antigens made available, but it won’t be reported today. 

A number changes for close contacts also come into effect from today.

Close contacts who have received a booster jab and have no symptoms of Covid are now not required to restrict their movements.

While they no longer have to restrict their movements, they are asked to “limit contact” with people outside their household and to avoid contact with anyone who may be at high risk from Covid-19.

Close contacts who have not received a booster will still have to restrict their movements, but only for seven days rather than 10. 

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These rules will apply to both household close contacts (people who live or sleep in the same home as a confirmed case) and non-household close contacts (anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes with a confirmed case 48 hours before they developed symptoms or 24 hours before they did their test).

All close contacts are nonetheless advised to take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and are also asked to wear an appropriate face mask in those spaces. 

Current isolation periods for people who test positive and who have symptoms has also been dropped from 10 days down to seven. 

Includes reporting by Ian Curran and Christina Finn

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