Covid-19 cases are on the rise, though Government officials continue to insist restrictions will not return.
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan is not of the opinion that restrictions designed to tackle Covid-19 should return, despite a visible spike in cases across Ireland.
That sentiment was expressed by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at a party meeting on Wednesday evening, 23 March.
According to RTÉ News, Varadkar compared the current situation to a “bad flu season”, adding that economic and social restrictions are not traditionally imposed during such a time.
Varadkar pointed to the less severe nature of the Omicron variant and noted that the majority of the Irish population is vaccinated.
On Wednesday, the Tánaiste said that a new group set to replace the National Public Health and Emergency Team (NPHET) is “imminent”.
Varadkar said he doesn’t have a precise timeline on the installation of the new team, nor has it been outlined who will staff it.
Also on Wednesday; the Department of Health confirmed a total of 21,098 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
Of those, 7,038 were identified via a PCR test, while 14,060 came from positive antigen tests registered through the Health Service Executive portal.
As of Tuesday morning, 1,395 patients are hospitalised with the virus.
Of those, 55 are in ICU.
Chief Clinical Officer for the HSE Colm Henry has expressed concern at the current trends, warning that the latest numbers “don’t actually tell the whole story” due to many healthcare workers being absent as a result of Covid-related reasons, leading to an overall disruption in health services.
Regarding any significant changes to public health advice, Varadkar referred to Tony Holohan, who he noted is still “in situ” as far as the Chief Medical Officer role is concerned.
The Tánaiste reiterated his stance on not reintroducing restrictions, having previously moved to rule out a return to mandatory mask-wearing.
Speaking on Tuesday following a call from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing in crowded and indoor settings, Varadkar said:
“I absolutely acknowledge that our hospitals are under enormous pressure at the moment, not just because of Covid,” he said.
“There’s also the Bank Holiday effect, and there’s also deferred demand.
“And the message from Government on masks is very much in line with public health advice – that it’s advised on public transport, and also advised in crowded indoor spaces.
“But we don’t propose to make it a criminal offence again not to do so,” the Tánaiste concluded.
In conversation on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, Donegal-based GP Denis McCauley urged the public to respond appropriately to the new wave of Covid, particularly in the wake of a rise in hospitalisations.
“I think there is sort of a, ‘Speak to the hand’ type thing – ‘Problem? What problem?’ – I think there is a problem. And we need to recognise it.
“The tone is, ‘There’s no problem here, what’s the problem? Covid again? Give our heads peace.’ – I think there is a problem, I think we need to do something.
“We need to change things, subtly initially, and hopefully if that works then we won’t need to think about dreadful things like mandatory issues after that.”
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Facebook split image of Leo Varadkar: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie