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Corona caution Restrictions may stay in place beyond October 22 after sharp rise in Covid cases

There are currently 408 Covid-19 patients in hospital, the highest since early March and over 2,000 new cases were announced yesterday

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With two out of every three Covid-related patients in hospital unvaccinated, Dr Ronan Glynn stated that they have had a 'disproportionate' impact on the spread of the virus. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

With two out of every three Covid-related patients in hospital unvaccinated, Dr Ronan Glynn stated that they have had a 'disproportionate' impact on the spread of the virus. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

With two out of every three Covid-related patients in hospital unvaccinated, Dr Ronan Glynn stated that they have had a 'disproportionate' impact on the spread of the virus. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins

THE Government may delay removing the final Covid-19 restrictions following a sudden change in the behaviour of the virus.

As 2,066 new cases were reported last night, senior figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) informed government officials of concerns over the rise in the number of tests carried out, the positivity rate and hospitalisations in recent days.

It is unclear whether the change in the trajectory of the virus is temporary or evidence of a more sustained step change, with officials to assess more data in the coming days.

The unexpected shift comes as the country is due to remove remaining Covid restrictions next Friday, October 22.

Nphet meets on Monday to assess the situation and make recommendations.

The HSE's national lead on testing and tracing, Niamh O'Beirne, told the Herald that the downward trend in the virus had reversed last Wednesday.

She said there had been a noticeable increase in the referral of older people for testing.

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There are currently 408 Covid-19 patients in hospital, the highest since early March.

The latest developments could put the relaxation of most of the remaining public health restrictions in doubt.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the rising spread of the virus should act as an "alert" and he cannot guarantee that most restrictions will be lifted next week.

He said the Covid numbers are a "matter of concern" and that the disease has "taken the wrong turn".

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He told a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night that the Government is continuing to monitor the evolving situation.

Hospitality

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told his parliamentary party that all indicators of the virus are heading in the wrong direction.

He said the 300,000 people who are not vaccinated have a choice, but they must accept that those choices affect other people.

The Fine Gael leader said the Government will discuss the rising Covid numbers and make a decision on the October 22 reopening date at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

Mr Varadkar did not rule out the possibility of extending vaccine passes for indoor hospitality through the winter months following a suggestion from senator Garret Ahearn.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan is due to return from leave next week and is expected to chair the Nphet meeting on Monday.

Ms O'Beirne said the health service is carrying out around 17,000 tests per day at community sites across the country.

Testing was reported to be "very busy" in Kerry, Waterford, and Cork.

Positivity rates are 10.5pc in community testing but some counties are higher, with Kerry reporting a positivity rate of 16.5pc, Waterford 16.5pc and Cavan 13.5pc.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn and Nphet modelling chief Philip Nolan informed a briefing of the Covid Oversight Group yesterday that there has been a sudden change in Covid data that they are concerned about.

In a statement, Dr Glynn blamed the 300,000 people yet to be vaccinated and the 70,000 who still have had just one dose for helping to fuel the current spread.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was forced into isolation yesterday after displaying mild symptoms of Covid-19, but he returned a negative test.

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