Health Minister expects most of over-85s to get first jab this week
Hopes are rising that the third wave of Covid-19 may finally be in retreat after the number of daily cases yesterday fell to 359, the lowest since mid-December
Hospitals also saw a fall in Covid-19 patients, down to 498, from 540 the previous day.
The most seriously ill patients in intensive care also reduced from 120 to 116.
However, there were 14 additional Covid-19 deaths reported.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed that Covid-19 infections in Irish hospital staff have dropped by around 95pc.
He told the Oireachtas Committee on Health this was linked to the protection from vaccinations, along with the fall in community transmission of the virus.
“The good news is the pressure has eased. We’ve seen today that the number of Covid cases in hospitals has reduced below 500, which is very, very welcome.”
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said that while yesterday’s figures may be attributable to a weekend effect, where people put off going for tests, it is nevertheless very welcome and represents the lowest number of cases reported on a single day since mid-December.
“While we continue to make good progress in Ireland, globally in the past week, the number of cases of Covid-19 has increased for the first time in seven weeks.
“We must not allow this virus the opportunity to do the same here. Please hold firm to the public health advice and together we can continue to protect and build on the progress we have made over the last two months.”
The improvement yesterday came as the Northern Ireland Executive agreed its road map to lift Covid-19 restrictions.
Cafes where customers cannot drink alcohol and outdoor sports facilities will be among the first to open as Northern Ireland moves out of lockdown, it has emerged.
Mr Donnelly told the health committee that he expects 500,000 vaccines out of 520,000 which have been delivered here so far to be administered this week.
However, members of the committee said that some GPs were still without deliveries for their patients aged 85 and older.
GPs are only getting 48 hours’ notice of deliveries but the hope is that by the end of this week, around 71,000 of the 72,000 in this age group will have got their first dose.
The minister said housebound people have yet to be vaccinated and the HSE is due to implement special measures such as GP home visits, while the ambulance service will also be involved.
He said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is conducting a rolling review of the prioritisation list.
He suggested the review could see key workers such as teachers moved up the list.
Mr Donnelly said: “What they’re now looking at is the next grouping, which is a very large grouping, which is key workers.
“So, for example, family carers. A lot of people have been advocating on behalf of family carers.
“So one of the things NIAC is now looking at is key workers, including the role they play, for example, in supporting healthcare or the vaccination programme itself.
“Or indeed other essential activities, like education and, or indeed, caring.”
Mr Donnelly said that the vast majority of people over the age of 85 will have received their first vaccine by the end of this week.
He said there were outstanding cases for some people who are housebound, with special measures such as GP home visits and the ambulance service being put in place for those instances.
The committee also heard that there are now more than 700,000 people on hospital waiting lists, an increase of almost 22pc on the previous year.
He admitted hospital waiting lists had been a problem for years and that this had been exacerbated by the pandemic. He said €1.1bn in health funding would be put towards new measures to tackle the issue.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland