Public response and boosters have ‘eased worst impacts’ of latest Covid wave says HSE chief


THE HSE CHIEF has said that a consistent set of Covid-19 trends are giving “great hope”.

In a tweet this morning, Paul Reid said that the number of people hospitalised with the virus is down to 940, the first time it has fallen to under a thousand in nearly a week.

He said there are 83 patients receiving intensive care treatment, with fewer patients needing overall oxygen support.

He also said that GP referrals and the number of overall cases were down, adding that booster vaccines and the public’s response “have so far eased the worst impacts”.

He ended the tweet by urging people to avail of a booster vaccine as soon as possible.

According to the latest figures from the HSE, a total of 5,511 positive antigen tests have been reported on the organisation’s portal since yesterday. As of 6am today, the number was 105, after hitting 5,406 at midnight on Friday. 

There was a total of 24,508 requests for antigen tests yesterday, with 7,126 of those symptomatic, 10,296 close contacts, and the remainder from schools and childcare facilities. 

It comes after the Taoiseach said that the country is seeing progress with Covid and that it is “stabilising”.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show last night, Micheál Martin said he is feeling “optimistic” about the situation. “We’re certainly, I think, getting past the peak at this stage,” he said, adding that the vaccine programme was a “game changer”.

Asked about the possibility of a fourth jab, he said: “We’ve got to really look at this over a medium term and say what will our vaccination policy be in relation to Covid-19. I can certainly see the potential of four doses for the over 60s or for the immunocompromised. We may be looking ultimately at an annual vaccination program in respect of Covid-19.”

“By the end of next week we’ll be in a position to make decisions in terms of restrictions,” added the Taoiseach, saying that the country will have to learn to live with Covid-19 – but not in the sense of how we lived before the virus.

Martin said he hoped that hospitality restrictions will be gone by early February, but he couldn’t confirm this.

He also said he doesn’t anticipate schools will close again, but that he understands the challenges facing children, teachers and parents. Martin added that he’s not ruling out a hybrid model of the Leaving Certificate this summer, but that he anticipated having an answer on this by the end of February.

People are now able to register their positive antigen test on the HSE website. 

The online system allows people to directly upload their own positive antigen test results and upload their close contacts, who will then be contacted in the same way that happens through the PCR system.

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Logging an antigen test on the portal does not qualify people for a recovery cert. A PCR test or a professional antigen test is required to receive the certificate. 

A number changes for close contacts also came into effect yesterday.

Close contacts who have received a booster jab and have no symptoms of Covid are now not required to restrict their movements.

While they no longer have to restrict their movements, they are asked to “limit contact” with people outside their household and to avoid contact with anyone who may be at high risk from Covid-19.

Close contacts who have not received a booster will still have to restrict their movements, but only for seven days rather than 10.

These rules will apply to both household close contacts (people who live or sleep in the same home as a confirmed case) and non-household close contacts (anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes with a confirmed case 48 hours before they developed symptoms or 24 hours before they did their test).

All close contacts are nonetheless advised to take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and are also asked to wear an appropriate face mask in those spaces.

Current isolation periods for people who test positive and who have symptoms has also been dropped from 10 days down to seven.





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