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Ireland could introduce tougher Covid restrictions before New Year’s Eve

Micheal Martin said he was ‘worried’ by the recent rise in cases.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned further restrictions could be introduced in Ireland before New Year’s Eve (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned further restrictions could be introduced in Ireland before New Year’s Eve (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned further restrictions could be introduced in Ireland before New Year’s Eve (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Restrictions on household visits and on the hospitality sector could be introduced in Ireland before New Year’s Eve, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheal Martin said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had recommended that stricter restrictions be introduced before the end of the year as case numbers continue to rise.

Mr Martin said he was “worried” by the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days and the Government would take Nphet’s recommendation “very seriously”.

“The anticipated period of going from tomorrow to the 6th of January will be shortened,” he told RTE’s Six One.

“Nphet will be recommending restrictions in relation to hospitality, before the end of the year, so concerned are they in relation to the rising numbers. And also, restricting household visits to one [other household].”

We will give people plenty of notice on whatever decisions the Government take, but we are mindful of the rising numbersMicheal Martin

It comes as the Northern Ireland Executive announced a six-week lockdown would come into effect on December 26 amid rising cases of the virus.

In the Republic, a further 484 cases of Covid-19 and three more deaths linked to the virus were reported on Thursday.

Two-hundred patients with coronavirus were in hospital, including 31 in ICU.

Mr Martin said: “Numbers are rising across all age cohorts whereas in most of the second wave it was the lower age cohort which meant the impact on hospitalisations and ICUs was not as significant.”

Mr Martin said Cabinet would meet on Tuesday to discuss Nphet’s advice.

“[We will] give people plenty of notice on whatever decisions the Government take, but we are mindful of the rising numbers,” he said.

“We know that when they get to a certain level they can grow exponentially.”

He added that the healthcare system in Ireland was in better shape than it was last winter, but said “we want to keep it that way”.

Speaking at an Nphet briefing on Thursday evening chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “The five-day moving average is 387 per day – this is an indicator that the disease is moving quickly when compared to the previous five-day average.

“The virus is spreading throughout the country, in all age groups.

“We are now getting reports of outbreaks in social settings including workplace settings, Christmas parties and funerals.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to limit your interactions now.

“The consequences of not doing so will be exponential growth in January, a substantial increase in hospitalisations and risk to life.”

Dr Holohan added: “Everybody now needs to look again at their plans and satisfy themselves, that they’re taking every possible measure they can to limit their contacts to limit the chance of them picking up this infection between now and the Christmas period.”

Nphet chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said the reproduction number was now estimated between 1.1 and 1.3.

He said: “We are concerned that Ireland is now in a phase of rapid growth, which if allowed to continue, will result in 700-1,200 cases per day by the second week in January, if not sooner.

“We are particularly concerned about older people and vulnerable adults, who have protected themselves through the second wave, and are now at risk during the festive season.”

Professor Nolan added: “I want to remind everybody that’s listening, that we have a collective obligation to ensure that people in those age brackets.

“Do not become infected with this disease over the coming weeks.”

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