A further 1,627 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, with the Government not currently considering a return to increased restrictions or lockdown.
The lifting of most remaining restrictions on October 22nd is in doubt amid rising infections and hospital admissions. It comes as new figures show there have been 13 Covid deaths in the week to last Tuesday.
This evening, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said “the growth rate of the epidemic has accelerated in recent days” with increases in key indicators nationwide.
However, the Taoiseach this afternoon said rising numbers needed to be kept in “perspective”, while the Minister for Health said the reintroduction of restrictions had not been discussed in Government.
Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was too early to say if the planned easing of restrictions for just over a week’s time will be delayed, as the Government awaits advice from public health officials.
“I can’t pre-empt the public health advice, but I would say to you that there has never been any consideration of going backwards,” he said.
“That really is a matter for Government, it’s a matter for the advice we get from Nphet and from the public health experts, but there certainly has never been any discussion around things like reintroducing measures.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government would take Ireland’s high rate of vaccination into account when evaluating rising case numbers.
“We have to keep it in perspective. Up to 92 per cent of people (aged 18 or older) are fully vaccinated, we’re close to 90 (per cent of) over 12s, and that is giving very significant protection to people,” Mr Martin said.
“So we’re not like the situation we were last year. And also, the booster (vaccine) campaign has now started.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar this afternoon said that the use of booster vaccines could bring a rapid increase in Covid cases under control again.
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that if everyone was fully vaccinated there would be “no question” about easing restrictions, according to The Irish Times.
He said no decisions had been made on the planned easing of restrictions on October 22nd but that the Cabinet would decide probably on Monday or Tuesday, by which time more data will be available.
“Israel, which saw a return of Delta, got its numbers down and under control again through an extensive booster programme,” said Mr Varadkar. “The case for something like that is stronger than ever.”
On Thursday evening, Dr Glynn said all Covid indicators are now “pointing towards a deteriorating disease trajectory nationally.”
“We are seeing an increase in incidence in all age groups, including older age groups,” he said, adding that the national incidence rate is now 415 cases per 100,000 people.
“As a result, we are seeing an impact on our hospital system with an average of 50 people being admitted to hospital per day — up from 35 per day at the end of September — and five admissions to intensive care per day,” he continued.
“It’s important that anyone who is fully vaccinated is reassured that vaccines give very good protection from Covid-19.
“However, when incidence of disease is high, we will see breakthrough infections in vaccinated people — most people’s experience of infection will be mild, but some will end up in hospital and intensive care. We want to avoid that.”
Dr Glynn urged the public to follow public health advice, regardless of their vaccination status.
As of 8am this morning, there were 415 Covid patients hospitalised, with 70 being treated in intensive care.
Ireland’s booster vaccine programme has begun with the administration of a third shot to those over 65 in residential care settings, those over 80 in the community and those with underlying conditions.
Mr Varadkar said Government was waiting on advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) regarding a wider booster programme.
He told Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell, who raised the issue, that in relation to those who are not yet vaccinated “vaccines are still available and vaccine centres are still open”.
If everyone in Ireland was fully vaccinated, we would probably have approximately 25 people in ICU
He said: “It is a personal choice, but the truth is that, if everyone in Ireland was fully vaccinated, we would probably have approximately 25 people in ICU and 200 in hospital overall today, and there would be no question about easing restrictions on 22 October.
“It is a personal choice, but it has an impact on other people.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris suggested an extension of the digital Covid certificate beyond October 22nd as a possible way of society fully reopening.