Greater role for antigen tests – but Taoiseach denies Ireland is experiencing on ‘Groundhog Day’
People aged over 60 will soon be able to avail of Covid-19 booster vaccines shots following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
The extension of the booster shot programme will be an essential element of the Government’s plan to tackle to resurgent virus.
It is hoped the HSE can begin administering booster jabs to over 60s as soon as possible. Niac’s advice will be discussed by Cabinet on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Nphet has advised the Government to ditch their plans to lift most restrictions this Friday and instead suggested a more cautious approach.
It is expected the use of Covid-19 passes and masks will still be needed for hospitality settings.
The use of Digital Covid Certificates, masks and physical distancing measures will continue beyond this Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin indicated earlier today.
And once again the Government is talking about extending the use of antigen tests even though members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) have repeatedly expressed reservations.
Nphet were meeting this evening to discuss the latest upsurge in Covid-19 cases which is impacting almost every county in Ireland.
But Mr Martin has denied we are going through a “Groundhog Day”.
He acknowledged the rise in hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) is causing concern.
The majority of public health measures were scheduled to end on Friday but the Government is now likely to take a more cautious approach.
Speaking in Sligo, the Taoiseach said: “That said we are in a much different space and situation to this time last year because of vaccination.”
Asked about concern among those planning social events about what lay ahead Mr said: “The continuation of the Covid certs is certainly an item on the agenda as is mask wearing and so on.”
Mr Martin said vaccinations had transformed the situation in terms of our capacity to deal with and cope with Covid-19.
“So we would encourage people out there who have still not been vaccinated to get vaccinated and particularly those with first dose to get their second dose.
Mr Martin insisted that it had not been a mistake to herald October 22 as a date for the lifting of all restrictions.
“No, I mean back then we were on a very good trajectory and up to last week public health (advice) was positive enough about the ways things were going.”
Asked what his view was on antigen testing Mr Martin said: “I am a strong believer in antigen testing. Our public health officials have a more moderated perspective on the value of antigen testing. But some sectors have rolled out antigen testing and that is something that the Government will be considering as well over the next 24 hours”.
Mr Martin said there was no conflict between the Deputy CMO Ronan Glynn and the Government on remote working.
In a Twitter video on Friday, Mr Glynn suggested that people should work from home into next year.
Mr Martin said the Government announced in September that there would be a phased return to the workplace .
“That was government policy as stated in September following decisions taken by government. There has been no change yet. ”
He rejected suggestions there had been an overall absence of clarity on the part of government.
“This isn’t an absence of clarity - essentially it’s that Covid is behaving in a certain way. It has caused an increase in cases, an increase in the number of hospitalisations. So we do have do give it consideration”, Mr Martin told reporters.
“Nphet are meeting today. NIAC are also meeting. That will inform government’s decisions tomorrow”.
He added: “It is not Groundhog Day. I do not accept that presentation that has been made because of the fact that the economy has rebounded very significantly and in a very fast way because of the re-opening of society that has occurred over the last number of months and that has to be acknowledged.
“But Covid has many twists and turns. We are witnessing another now at this particular time which will give us pause for reflection”.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland