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Covid-19: NPHET and Stormont to hold meetings today as Ireland faces 'delicate and precarious' situation

NPHET is set to review the ongoing epidemiological situation across Ireland.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE NATIONAL PUBLIC Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is set to meet today following concerns from the Chief Medical Officer that Ireland’s rate of Covid-19 is “moving in the wrong direction”.

NPHET, which regularly meets on Thursdays, will review the ongoing epidemiological situation amid a rise in cases across the island of Ireland and in Europe.

An additional 431 cases of Covid-19 were reported by health officials yesterday, the second-highest number since the end of Level 5 restrictions earlier this month.

Dr Tony Holohan explained that Ireland was now in a “delicate and precarious situation” ahead of the Christmas period.

“We are seeing significant and concerning indicators that this disease in moving in the wrong direction, including an increase in positivity rates,” he said last night.

“These trends are all the more troubling because of the delicate and precarious situation we are in – as a country, we are heading into a period of potential widespread inter-household and inter-generational mixing.”

Restrictions are set to be eased for Christmas tomorrow, when inter-county travel and household visits will be permitted.

In Northern Ireland, proposals for further restrictions after Christmas will be put forward today at a meeting of the Stormont Executive.

Health Minister Robin Swann warned last night that a number of “robust and extreme” recommendations were required, although BBC also reported that no exact details have been set out.

Case numbers have continued to rise in the North following the end of a two-week ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown last week, with fears that cases could continue to rise after Christmas unless new restrictions are introduced.

A further eight Covid-19 related deaths were announced in the North yesterday, along with 510 new cases of the virus.

Hospital capacity across the region stood at 105% yesterday, while the incidence rate of the virus is around four times that of the Republic.

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First Minister Arlene Foster said the public must take “all and every precaution” at Christmas.

It followed a call with other devolved leaders in the UK about plans for allowing more household mixing for five days over Christmas.

The leaders are facing intensifying calls to rethink the Christmas relaxations amid fears they could trigger a major spike in cases in January.

Images showed queues of ambulances outside hospitals in Northern Ireland on Tuesday night, with pressure mounting on the region’s health service to deal with the recent upsurge in case numbers.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has signalled that she will support whatever is brought forward by Swann and public health advisers, insisting it was important to make the “right decision” and “not the popular one”.

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