GROUNDHOG DAY? – Experts want next week is crucial if we are to avoid return of Covid-19 restrictions

by Gazette Reporter
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Reducing Covid-19 numbers in coming days is vital if country is to avoid government reimposing restrictions in run up to Christmas

The next week is vital if we are to avoid the imposition of some of the restrictions which seriously curtailed social, working and shopping habits in the run up to Christmas last year.

A Department of Health source said the big fear was that with a number of international rugby and soccer matches attracting people from all over the country during the past few weekend as well as several GAA county finals being played nationally, that this would reflect in a new spike in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19.

However the government has insisted that further lockdowns was not inevitable but it will be next week before they will know for sure if we can continue as we go or if there will be a requirement for a new national effort to avoid numbers getting out of control.

Minister Simon Coveney said we could still “avoid the return of enhanced restriction if people pull together and reduced the spread of Covid-19.” And his cabinet colleague Eamon Ryan said there would be no decision until the government saw the consequences of recent appeals and restrictions.

The Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan was slightly more optimistic this week as he saw figures of daily Covid cases fall from a peak of almost 6,000 last week, which he described as “unsustainable” to 3,666 daily cases earlier this week.

That high was at a worrrying level the country experienced last April but the public response to his weekend appeals may have turned the tide back significantly.

Dr Holohan told TDs that while he was hopeful that the economy could be kept open at this crucial time for many businesses, he could give no guarantees at this stage.

“Our research tells us that people are listening to the public health advice and are reducing the number of people they are planning to meet, and are cancelling social events, to reduce their contacts.We know what we are asking people to do to help suppress the spread of disease in our communities is very difficult,” he explained.

Speaking to opposition education and health spokespeople, he said he was concerned with the number of unvaccinated young people, emphasising that those  in the 25-29 age bracket had only an 80 per cent vaccination rate.

The Minister for Education, Norma Foley, unveiled several new measures to relieve the school staffing crisis.

She has got agreement from education colleges to free up their 3rd and 4th year students so that they can become substitute cover to the end of this term.

There will also be an extra 200 posts made available with the aim of provind substitute cover as part of the primary schools supply panels.

Sinn Féin’s spokesman on Health, David Cullinane described it as “incredible” that no “coherent plan” for the use of antigen tests was in place a full 12 months year after expert panel had been set up for that express purpose.

Next month is critical for business across Dublin  esepcially retail and the hospitality sector which will largely depend on December’s cash flow generation to keep them afloat heading into 2022.

Dr Holohan’s 5 Action To hold back Covid Spread

  1. If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, isolate immediately and get a PCR test, not an antigen test
  2. Prioritise who you need to meet
  3. Meet others outdoors and open windows when indoors
  4. Wear a mask properly
  5. Use the right test and understand what the test result means

While there is unlikely to be a return to the higher rates of the pandemic unemployment payment, it is being suggested that there could be a delay to the planned cuts to the employment wage subsidy scheme (EWSS), due to take effect from December 1.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland has engaged with the highest levels of Government over the past 48 hours to retain the EWSS at the current level and to reintroduce the Covid recovery support scheme due to the level of contraction in hospitality as an outcome of restrictions and messaging around reducing social contacts.

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