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Government advised that Covid certs, masks and social distancing should remain beyond Friday

Cabinet is set to meet today to discuss which Covid-19 measures can be lifted this Friday.

Updated Oct 19th 2021, 7:14 AM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been advised by health experts that there is some scope to ease remaining Covid-19 restrictions on Friday but only if there is rigid enforcement.

A meeting between coalition party leaders Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan took place last night. 

The full Cabinet will now meet today to discuss the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), who met yesterday. 

Government sources have indicated that the advice from NPHET gives some space to ease more restrictions, but only if the enforcement of vaccine passes, social distancing and mask-wearing remains in place. 

The advice has been described as “not straightforward”, however sources remained optimistic that there is space to proceed.

The removal of most remaining restrictions was thrown into doubt in recent days in response to a rise in Covid cases and hospitalisations. 

Following a meeting of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), it is understood that booster shots have also been recommended for the over 60s.

The advice will now be considered by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the HSE, which administers the vaccine programme. 

Speaking last week, NIAC chair Professor Karina Butler said the focus in Ireland should be on people who remain unvaccinated rather than pushing for a widespread booster campaign. 

The number of people in Ireland who remain unvaccinated is “the real elephant in the room”, she said. 

Last night’s meeting

Leaders were warned last night that there are risks associated with further easing – with sources stating that overall the briefing from health experts was “quite pessimistic” about the next few weeks and months.

However sources said that on balance NPHET took the view that to pause the scrapping of all remaining restrictions on Friday could change that outlook. 

Earlier yesterday the Taoiseach confirmed that the Government was considering extending the use of the Covid pass, mask wearing and social distancing.

Speaking to reporters in Sligo, the Taoiseach also confirmed that the Government will consider the greater role antigen testing could play in the further easing of restrictions.

Martin said he is a strong believer in antigen testing, and the use of such testing will be considered over the next 24 hours, despite health experts sitting on NPHET questioning the effectiveness of such tests.

While he said he would not pre-empt today’s Cabinet meeting, Martin said “we are in a much different space to this time last year because of vaccination”.

He said vaccination had “transformed” the situation, and “our capacity to deal and cope with the situation”. 

“It is not Groundhog Day – I don’t accept that,” he said, adding that the rise in hospitalisations was a “cause for reflection”. 

The Government wants to provide clarity for businesses today, he said. 

“This isn’t an absence of clarity, it’s that Covid is behaving in a certain way,” he said.

Asked about the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn’s comments on Friday in relation to people working from home over the winter months, the Taoiseach said “there has been no change” in policy since it was announced in September that there should be a phased return to the workplace. 

HSE CEO Paul Reid warned yesterday that due to the numbers in hospital with Covid, it is “time for us all to hit the reset button”. 

“If unvaccinated you’re at higher risk, resulting in disproportionate impact. Do the right thing,” Reid said on Twitter.

“For the rest of us, time to do the basics well again. Both of the above work.”

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The latest figures show there were 484 people in hospital with Covid-19, an increase of 25 on the previous day’s figure. 

This day two weeks ago there were 349 people with Covid-19 in hospital. 

- With reporting from Daragh Brophy

 

 

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