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Reassurance Leo Varadkar says surge in Delta variant cases to '1,000 or 2,000 a day' should not cause alarm

'We have to keep a close eye on hospitalisations which are now rising slightly and also on the numbers in ICU'

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar

The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar has said that an expected surge in the Delta variant of Covid-19 cases to “1,000 cases a day or 2,000 a day over the next few weeks” should not cause alarm. 

Mr Varadkar set out to reassure the public that any surge in cases in the coming weeks will not have the same impact as it would have in previous waves.

He said that because of the vaccine programme, the link between cases and hospitalisation and deaths “is weakened”.

“It is not broken or abolished but it is significantly weakened,” he said. “For example, if you take the Alpha (UK) variant before, about two per cent of people would have died as a result of Alpha.

“For Delta, it is actually closer to 0.2 per cent or 0.3 per cent. That is not because it is less severe - it is not less severe - that is because of the vaccine programme.

“So, 1,000 cases a day or 2,000 a day over the next few weeks which will alarm people is totally different to 1,000 or 2,000 cases a day back in January or February,” he said.

“The worry of course is that we may go much higher than that and, if we went up to something like 8,000, 9,000 or 10,000 cases a day, even a small percentage of a very big number is a big number.

“So, we have to keep a close eye on hospitalisations which are now rising slightly and also on the numbers in ICU.

“We are also looking to countries that are ahead us in this wave, like Scotland, and also places that are ahead of us on vaccination, like Israel. There are messages from there but there is still a lot of uncertainty unfortunately.”

Last night, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan urged people to “do as much as possible to control the spread of the disease” as officials announced the highest daily total in two and a half months.

Meanwhile, Government officials are again meeting representatives from the hospitality industry today to discuss ways to reopen indoor dining on July 19.

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Minister Varadkar said they hope to be in a position to bring proposals to Cabinet next Tuesday.

He said reopening will be “along the lines that NPHET recommended” – meaning only those who are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid will be allowed to eat indoors.

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