Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he cannot guarantee that the further easing of COVID-19 pandemic-related planned for October 22 will proceed.
As reported by rte.ie, Martin's comments came as the Department of Health has been notified of 2,066 new coronavirus cases, and he said that a decision on the matter will be made early next week.
Martin reportedly said that a presentation from Deputy Chief Medical Officer Doctor Ronan Glynn was "serious", and that the trajectory of COVID-19 has taken a wrong turn, with a sudden increase in case numbers.
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Martin reportedly said that the government wants to see more data and that it will reflect on the situation, and, "It's very important that the public at large realise that COVID hasn't gone away."
Martin reportedly said that hospital numbers are higher than he would like them to be and this is having an impact, and that it is an "alert to all of us to knuckle down, refocus on this virus because it hasn't gone away."
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar reportedly said that a decision on whether or not to proceed with the further easing of restrictions on October will be made at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday October 19.
Varadkar reportedly told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the COVID-19 metrics are "worrying and going in the wrong direction", and that 300,000 adults have not taken the vaccine and, while this is a personal choice, "those choices have effects on other people".
Concerns Over Whether Latest Virus Figures Represent A Blip Or A Trend
Concern was reportedly expressed at a meeting of the Senior Officials Group on COVID-19 about whether the latest figures on the virus represent a blip or a trend.
The meeting reportedly included the secretaries general of government departments, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Doctor Ronan Glynn and Chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan.
While a discussion about the plan to further ease restrictions on October 22 was reportedly not held, Nphet will reportedly meet on Monday October 18 to review the trends and advise the government about how it should best proceed.
There was reportedly concern at the meeting about the increase in COVID-19 positivity rates, testing and tracing, and the number of patients in hospital and in intensive care units.
Minister For Foreign Affairs Statements
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney reportedly said earlier that the government remained on track to proceed with the planned further easing of restrictions on October 22 unless "compelling evidence" on rising infection rates suggested that that approach should change.
Coveney reportedly said on RTÉ News at One that the government will listen to the advice of medical and scientific experts in finalising any decision, and that Chief Medical Officer Doctor Tony Holohan, senior Nphet members and civil servants are currently assessing the situation in hospitals, ICUs and in the community.
Coveney reportedly said that the pandemic is not over and "we still have a lot of COVID in the community" and that despite the high level of vaccinations "it does not mean we can let our guard down".
Nphet Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Chair Statements
Nphet Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Chair Professor Philip Nolan has reportedly said that a measured rather than an emergency response to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases is needed, and that Ireland is on a "knife edge" balanced on vaccine protection as the COVID-19 positivity rate has increased from 8% to 10% across the country in the last week.
Nolan reportedly said while speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne radio programme that although the numbers are similar to this time last year, the dynamics are completely different, and that vaccination offers a really significant buffer and "it's harder for the disease to move quickly when 90% of the population is vaccinated."
Nolan reportedly said that things are going in the wrong direction, but that there is no reason to believe that COVID-19 will rapidly go out of control and another week or so of data will be needed before a measured response is considered.
Nolan reportedly said, "We don't know if it is a step change...and will stay at this level, but we are worried that we may be seeing genuine growth [in the virus],", and that there is a worrying number of COVID-19 tests being requested and there is also a concern that positive cases may translate to increased hospitalisations next week.
Nolan reportedly said that "we as a society need to do all we can to encourage people to take up vaccination" as this will reduce infection and minimise hospitalisation, and, "We have done a great job…but could do more."
Nolan reportedly said that there has been an increase in cases in the last week and it is "a very rapidly changing situation and one of the scenarios we have modelled", and that the change in the trajectory of cases is very recent and the first indication was cases reported on Friday October 8 from swabs taken on Wednesday October 6, but each day of data is important and "we will know an awful lot more about where we are going next Monday [October 18]".
Nolan reportedly said that the virus is moving subtly and slowly through the vaccinated population and appealed to people to help persuade everyone that they can to take the vaccine, and also not to leave home if they have cold or flu symptoms.
Nolan reportedly warned, "It is dangerous now for people to mix where one of them has any kind of symptom."
DCU Immunology Professor Statements
Professor of immunology at Dublin City University Christine Loscher reportedly said that the further easing of restrictions should continue as planned and the focus should remain on mitigating the risks.
Loscher reportedly said that the recent increase in new COVID-19 cases is not a surprise because many other restrictions have been eased and people are mixing together more.
Loscher reportedly said on RTÉ's Morning Ireland that these mitigating risk factors should include maintaining the need for COVID-19 vaccination certs for indoor activities, along with a continued focus on mask wearing and hand sanitising, and that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is difficult to contain and people are also beginning to move indoors as the weather changes.
Loscher reportedly said that Ireland also still has a high number of unvaccinated people, at approximately 370,000, and, "Everything we do is about mitigating risk. We can't get rid of Delta and New Zealand has proven that."
However, she reportedly said that the high number of COVID-19 cases is not translating into hospitalisations and death, which shows that the vaccine is working.
HSE Chief Operator Officer Statements
Health Service Executive (HSE) Chief Operations Officer Anne O'Connor reportedly said while also speaking on Morning Ireland that the number of cases of COVID-19 is up 43% in the last week, with the highest numbers of infections being among individuals between the ages of 19 and 44 (a little less than 40%) and individuals between the ages of 0 and 18 (26%).
O'Connor reportedly said that the majority of patients with COVID-19 requiring admission to hospital and into ICU are not vaccinated, and that the unvaccinated 10% of the adult population is driving 50% of admissions.
O'Connor reportedly said that "cases are growing… and it is really important that people see that is why we are giving a third vaccine to the over 80s, to those in nursing homes and the immunocompromised".
O'Connor reportedly said that a changing picture in recent weeks is that more people are needing admission to hospital, and, "There are more sick people turning up, who need to be admitted to hospital for a whole range of reasons including increased frailty and people who are just sicker."
O'Connor reportedly said that hospitals, particularly in Galway, Limerick and Cork, are under pressure and there were less than 100 beds available across the whole system last night.
Nightclub Operator Calls For Certainty About Further Easing Of Restrictions
Operator of Dublin's Tramline nighclub Ian Redmond reportedly said while speaking on Morning Ireland about the current lack of certainty about the further easing of restrictions, "We are just devastated...the amount of work that has gone into this...I just want certainty and clarity from government, we deserve this."
Redmond reportedly said that it is "just not fair" for the government to leave it until Tuesday October 19 or Wednesday October 20 to decide whether to ease restrictions further on October 22, and it does not work to put in ad hoc restrictions, or look to introduce antigen testing at this late stage.
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin reportedly said that she wants nightclubs to reopen on October 22.
Minister Martin reportedly said while speaking at her departmental budget briefing on Wednesday October 13 that it is unlikely that antigen testing will be used at that stage as the expert advisory group's report on such tests has not yet been received.
Minister Martin reportedly said that she understands that there is concern about ICU figures and hospitalisations, but that as it stands, "we are still heading for reopening on 22 October".
Redmond reportedly said that Minister Martin "knows well we can only operate at 100%", but added that he is not opposed to using COVID-19 vaccination certificates or temperature checks, and reportedly added, the people who want to go to nightclubs or party "by and large are fully vaccinated".
RAI CEO Statements
Meanwhile Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) CEO Adrian Cummins has reportedly called on the government to engage with the sector as soon as possible.
Cummins reportedly said while speaking on Morning Ireland that the sector is expecting that all restrictions for indoor hospitality will be removed on October 22, and reportedly warned that the clock is ticking down and businesses have taken bookings in anticipation of eased restrictions.
Cummins reportedly said that the COVID pass allows businesses to trade safely and the sector would be happy to continue asking for the passports if it meant that full trading could resume.
Cummins reportedly also pointed out that staff have been rostered from October 22 onward, many of whom will be coming off of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), and if businesses cannot open past 11.30pm it means that some people may be left in a position in which they cannot get back on the pandemic payment.
Cummins reportedly said, "We are in a phase now where we need to get this right, we need to make sure we protect the health of the nation, first of all, but we also need to engage with businesses around how they operationalise their business over the next number of weeks ahead."
Previously "In A Good Place"
The above news follows news from earlier this month that Nphet Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Chair Professor Philip Nolan had said that the population of Ireland seems to have come close to suppressing COVID-19 and "we're in a good place" regarding the planned further lifting of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on October 22.
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