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virus fears Government have NO plans to bring in new restrictions as Covid cases soar to 3,726

Public health officials expect case numbers to increase in the coming weeks and peak or plateau in November.

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The Government is set to resist reimposing restrictions in the face of the rising number of Covid-19 cases, with officials warning cases could exceed 5,000 per day within weeks.

Despite 3,726 new cases being recorded by health chiefs yesterday – the highest daily figure since early January – senior government and public health figures insisted there are no plans to reintroduce stricter measures, with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly telling RTÉ’s Prime Time last night: “We hope that it’s an outlier.”

“Cases have been rising very significantly in nearly all age groups. In terms of where we thought we would be, we are in between the pessimistic and optimistic,” he said, insisting the Government was not contemplating a return to restrictions and the current strategy would deal with the surge.

However, he did criticise the hospitality sector for lax checks on Covid certificates.

Public health officials expect case numbers to increase in the coming weeks and peak or plateau in November.

But Mr Donnelly has been told there is a high degree of uncertainty about this, the Irish Independent understands.

Very high levels of social contact among adults mean it is possible that the number of new cases may now exceed the more pessimistic scenario presented by the Covid modelling group last week of 5,000 per day and that cases and hospitalisations may decline more slowly than previous modelling suggested, officials have warned.

The trajectory of the virus depends on the public health response, individual actions, how fast vaccine effectiveness is waning and how much immunity is in the population due to undetected infections, officials have said.

Mr Donnelly has also been told that if any of these variables go the wrong way the current increase in Covid-19 infections could peak at a higher rate, closer to Christmas, and be slower to decline.

While case figures increased dramatically yesterday, the number of people in hospital and intensive care units has remained stable over the last week.

Last night, sources insisted the spike was down to the reporting of cases catching up with results from testing centres.

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It is predicted the case numbers will drop slightly today but will rise again significantly throughout November.

The Government’s Senior Officials Group will meet today to discuss the surge in Covid cases.

Public health officials are concerned about the rise in cases but there has been no discussion about the re-­imposition of restrictions.

It is understood any consideration of new measures will likely focus on reversing some of the measures announced on October 22 when nightclubs were allowed to reopen.

A major vaccine booster shot programme will be central to avoiding the need for additional restrictions, while the public will also be urged to comply with existing rules and guidelines.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will come under pressure to give advice on a further expansion of the booster campaign after it signed off on jabs for healthcare workers.

Yesterday, opposition TDs and unions criticised Niac’s slow pace in offering advice on booster vaccines, especially for healthcare workers.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government will seek approval for an extensive vaccine booster campaign.

The Government is in a race against time as the colder months approach and is anxious to give boosters to as many people as possible to avoid putting further pressure on the health service at a traditionally busy time.

Public health officials are understood to be worried by what has been described as a “profoundly uncertain” situation.

It is unclear to officials at this stage whether the latest rise in cases is transient and linked to the relaxation of public health measures on October 22 or a sustained growth in new infections.

There has been an increase in the incidence rate of the virus among younger age groups in recent days. This is in part being attributed to the mid-term break in schools and third-level institutions that is likely to have led to increased socialising.

The 14-day incidence stands at 695 per 100,000, an increase of 18pc on last week. As of 8am yesterday there were 493 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of whom 90 were in ICU.

However, a senior health source said demands on the hospital system remain extremely high.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly was accused of being “disrespectful” by Opposition TDs for accusing them of being “reckless” for voting against legislation extending the mandatory use of of Digital Covid Certificates and facemasks for the next three months.

Coming under criticism from Independents Michael Healy-Rae and Michael McNamara, Mr Donnelly said: “I do think it’s reckless, and I say that with respect.”

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