Ireland lockdown: The latest Christmas updates as Tony Holohan and Micheal Martin send message to nation

Concerns remain high about the current situation with Covid-19 as the government and top doctors urge people to follow public health advice.

A further 4,115 new cases of the virus were reported in Ireland on Friday while there are now 481 people being treated for the disease in hospital, of which 113 are in ICU.

The CEO of the HSE urged people to avail of their booster vaccines as hospitals are “under real pressure” with just two weeks to go until Christmas Day.

Paul Reid said on Saturday: “In December & January we know our hospitals will be under real pressure with currently 481 #COVID19 patients & 113 in ICU.

“We can all help to make this better by taking up the booster vaccine when offered. This weekend many locations open for walk-ins for specified groups.”

It comes as the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that Ireland is in a “very uncertain and unstable position” when it comes to Covid-19.

Christmas lights on Grafton Street in Dublin
Christmas lights on Grafton Street in Dublin

He voiced his worry over both the Delta and Omicron variants and issued advice to the public on how to have a safe Christmas.

Dr Holohan said on Friday: “We are in a very uncertain and unstable position due to the high incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“This is a matter of very significant concern as we wait for more evidence relating to the Omicron variant and the impact it may have to emerge.

“At the moment, based on the evidence available to us, we believe that the public health measures we are so familiar with will work to slow and stop the transmission of the Omicron variant, as well as the Delta variant.

“Early indications suggest that a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine will offer good protection against infection from Delta and Omicron.

“If you are eligible for a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, then please take the opportunity to receive your vaccine as soon as it is available to you. Similarly, if you are yet to receive a primary dose of Covid-19 vaccine then please come forward as soon as possible.”

With just two weeks to Christmas, he added: “We are all aware that this day 2 weeks is Christmas Eve, a time of year when we all look forward to coming together with friends and family.

“You can take measures today and in the next few days that will ensure the safest possible interaction with your loved ones over Christmas

“Risk assess the environments you plan to be in over the next two weeks – consider if they offer the opportunity to protect yourself with each layer of the public health advice and if you can:

  • Avoid crowds and reduce your contacts
  • Wear a mask including in crowded outdoor environments
  • Keep your distance if you feel unsafe feel empowered to leave
  • Open windows and avoid poorly ventilated indoor spaces
  • Clean your hands regularly.”

Also speaking on Friday, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he is “concerned” about the rapid spread of the Omicron Covid variant despite being “hopeful” for 2022.

Speaking to reporters in Cork after he received his booster vaccine, Mr Martin said: “I am concerned about the Omicron variant and in terms of the high volume that may emerge here post Christmas or you know, maybe in the next couple of weeks.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin
Taoiseach Micheal Martin

“Its doubling time seems to be shorter and certainly it seems to have an advantage over Delta.

“I think 2022 gives us hope as well but in the interim, we have a very serious variant and I’m reading what’s happening in Scotland and the UK, they’re estimating that it will take over Delta and that it is more infectious than the Delta variant.

“That is something we have to be worried about.”

When asked about further restrictions given his comments that the Omicron variant is likely more transmissible than the Delta variant, he said: “Look we have a series of restrictions in place now to the ninth of January, that was agreed by Government following advice from NPHET.

“One can never rule out anything, the honest answer is one can never rule out anything in relation to Covid-19 because there are many twists and turns.

“But what I think is important is that we adhere to the guidelines that are in place and the restrictions that have been brought into play and that in our own personal and collective behaviour we take care, that is key.

“To be fair to people, the last number of weeks, they have taken the message, they have taken the advice on board.

“There has been a significant reduction in many events, cancellation of events and people have adapted and that actually has had a good result in terms of stabilising the numbers in hospital and in intensive care which will give the health service very significant head room now over the coming weeks.”

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