Government approves additional measures to reduce levels of social contact
THE current level of COVID-19 is having a significant and sustained impact across all aspects of the health service, including in hospitals, Intensive Care Units (ICUs), public health, testing and tracing services, general practice, as well as the broader primary care services.
Following public health advice, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and the government has agreed a range of measures aimed at interrupting the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
In this address to the nation this evening the Taoiseach said: “This evening, all across Europe and across our country, it is increasingly clear that we are experiencing another surge of COVID-19 infection.
“In the last week, we have seen the second highest rate of hospital admission in all of 2021.
“We have developed and deployed a massive PCR testing and tracing operation – up to 25,000 tests per day. Yet it is still estimated that for every four detected cases there may be as many as another six asymptomatic, undetected cases in the community.
“Clearly, this is too high.
“This is the fourth surge in infections that we have experienced as a country, but this time it is different. It is different because of the extraordinary success of our National Vaccination Programme.”
Coming into place immediately: Household close contacts who are fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms should now restrict their movements until they have 3 negative antigen test results within 5 days.
Coming into place from midnight Thursday, November 18: everyone should revert to working from home unless it is necessary to attend the workplace in person.
- you will need COVID-19 passes (based on vaccination or recovery) for cinemas and theatres.
- closing times for all on-licensed premises (except for guests staying in hotels) will move to midnight with all customers vacated from the premises by that time.
Vaccine booster programme: Booster vaccinations are currently being administered to those aged over 60 in the community and residents in long-term care facilities, the immunocompromised, and healthcare workers.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is already planning to expand capacity further through both the pharmacy sector and vaccination centres over the coming weeks, and will now plan a further ramp-up of the delivery programme in the coming days in line with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice received last night to extend the programme to those aged 16-59 with underlying conditions and to those aged 50 to 59.
Vaccination remains the single most effective protection against COVID-19 and always remains available for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated. Vaccines are proving highly effective in preventing deaths and serious illness from COVID-19.
In contrast, this week, the HSE said 40% of people in hospitals are unvaccinated although they constitute just 7% of the adult population. The unvaccinated constitute 52% of admissions to ICU and the partially vaccinated another 5%.
Working from home: Following today’s decisions, engagement has taken place with employers and trade unions, through the Labour Employer Economic Forum, on updating guidance on working from home unless necessary to attend in person, as well as strengthening communication on protective measures, as outlined in the Work Safely Protocol, for those who continue to attend workplaces.
The government continues to offer a range of economic supports to assist businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic as set out in the Economic Recovery Plan, which are amongst the most extensive direct supports offered within the EU.
They include the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (with expenditure to date of over €5.4bn), tax warehousing, a targeted commercial rates waiver, along with low-cost loan schemes to businesses, such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, mentoring programmes, and direct grant programmes.
A range of sectoral supports also remain in place and, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, the Gaeltacht, Sports and the Media, the government remains in ongoing contact with the hospitality and entertainment sectors on the challenges they face due to COVID-19.
There will be no change in current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities in school, further and higher education institutions in line with COVID response plans for those sectors.