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Covid latest HSE chief predicts Omicron will become dominant variant as second Irish case detected

Paul Reid said the data from South Africa showed that this variant spreads very easily.


HSE chief Paul Reid

HSE chief Paul Reid

HSE chief Paul Reid

A second case of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant has been detected in Ireland, it emerged today.

It comes as the HSE said it is looking at extending the hours of walk-in booster clinics and will hire more vaccination staff before the end of the year.

If follows queues at several walk-in centres today with hundreds of people being turned away from centres in UCD and Croke Park, many of whom had queued for hours in the biting cold.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the data from South Africa showed that this variant spreads very easily.

He said "no reassurance" can be taken with the low levels of Omicron identified in Ireland to date.

It is only a matter of time before it becomes more dominant and we are looking at a significant number of cases, he said.

He appealed to people who are invited for a Covid-19 booster shot to keep the appointment and not to wait for a vaccine which could be developed to target Omicron.

Damien McCallion who oversees the vaccination roll out said that opening up walk-in clinics today for people in their fifties had driven demand.

He said capacity was not a problem at the moment but people can expect to queue if they are attending a walk-in clinic.

GPs and pharmacists were also involved in the booster roll out allowing people several possible channels to get a vaccine, he said.

He said they will look at extending the opening hours of walk in clinics and increasing the vaccination workforce from 160,000 to 200,000 by the end of the year.

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He denied there was an IT glitch in the notification to the HSE of people who were boosted by their GP or pharmacist and said it was functioning well.

This has been blamed for some "no shows" at vaccination centres because people who had been vaccinated were not known to the HSE which sent them another appointment,

He said a new function has now been added to the text message offering an appointment which will allow somebody who had Covid-19 in the previous six months to send a notification.

Mr Reid said he did not believe there was vaccine hesitancy which led to people missing appointments.

People have busy lives, but appealed to the public to prioritise taking up vaccine appointments above any other plans between now and Christmas.

"We are not seeing vaccine hesitancy, on the contrary, but what we are seeing is multiple channels, people with multiple options trying to fit that into their lives and the other demands they have.

"But our call would be to people - this is the most important appointment you can make between now and Christmas or at any time.

"Please, prioritise this appointment above anything else you might do - for your own protection."

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