republic of ireland

Republic of Ireland to Begin Vaccinating Children as Soon as Possible

Paul Reid, the head of the Republic of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), has said that the Government has already begun planning a child vaccination campaign which he hopes begins “as quickly as possible”. Yesterday, the the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved use of the Pfizer jab for five to 11 year-olds, with the vaccine now waiting approval from the country’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which will most likely follow the EMA’s original decision. The Times has the story.

Reid said delivery of the children’s vaccine across Europe was scheduled towards the end of December. “What we would be doing in the meantime is mobilising a plan and the channels in which we would prepare the vaccination of those younger age groups,” he said at a HSE weekly briefing.

The EMA said that a lower dose of the vaccine would be administered to primary school children (10 µg compared with 30 µg), with research showing that younger children produced a comparable immune response with the lower dose to that seen in people who received the higher dose.

The agency said the most common side effects in children aged five to 11 year-olds were mild or moderate, and similar to those recorded in older age groups. It said the benefits of vaccinating younger children outweighed the risks, particularly among those with conditions that increase the risk of severe forms of the disease.

Reid told yesterday’s briefing that there was a “really serious and continued escalation” of Covid transmission in the community. He noted that the public had responded to calls to work from home and curb social activities, but said this needed to be sustained because transmission levels were “still far too high” and putting severe pressure on the health system.

“We are still in a very volatile position overall in terms of where the virus is at,” he said.

There were 4,764 new Covid cases reported yesterday, with 598 people in hospital (down 13 from Wednesday) including 126 in intensive care (up six). The briefing was told that in the past week 395 Covid patients were admitted to hospital, an increase of 29% on the previous week. The five-day moving average of daily cases is at 4,665 compared with a peak of 6,867 in January.

Reid acknowledged the recent delays in accessing PCR tests during a week in which there has been no availability for testing in many counties across the country. The briefing was told that the HSE had increased its testing capacity and that 210,000 tests were completed in the past week. Three more PCR test centres are expected to open over the next week, including one in the Midlands and two on the east coast.

Reid said the healthcare system was “not elastic” and “not infinite” in terms of the demands it could meet. He said it would be misleading to suggest it could keep “surging up” and that there would be some testing delays.

“We put in the capacity but there are limits as to what capacity we can keep pumping into a system at these levels,” he said. “There does come a point where we have to be up-front, and we have been up-front, to set out that there will be people who experience some delays in terms of getting their test.

“Those who have been clinically prioritised are receiving tests in a very timely manner on either the same day or next day. But we do acknowledge some people are waiting with the significant numbers that we have coming through in terms of self referrals.”

Worth reading in full.

Galway University to Use CCTV to Locate Unmasked Students

The National University of Ireland in Galway has pledged to locate unmasked students on campus by using CCTV. Any students caught not wearing a face covering will be subjected to disciplinary action. Connacht Tribune has the story.

Management at National University Ireland Galway (NUIG) have said they will use CCTV to track down students who refuse to wear face masks and can take disciplinary action against them.

Staff at the university were told this week to approach students who do not wear masks and if they refuse to wear one, CCTV will be used to “pick up on the individuals”.

NUIG’s Chief Operating Officer, John Gill, said the college’s adherence to Covid guidelines has been largely excellent.

“However, in recent weeks, we’ve had some reports of isolated incidents of non-compliance, particularly in public areas like corridors etc, and particularly relating to the wearing of face masks. We want to encourage everyone, staff and students, to return to full compliance.

“Our experience has been that if people are challenged, if somebody asks them to replace their face covering, they do so. If you find that you get a response that is now what you’d expect or people don’t return to wearing the face covering, please report it.

“If we have CCTV coverage, then we can pick up on the individuals and approach them directly, or if you know the identity of the individual, let us know and we can act on that,” said Gill.

He asked staff to provide the time, date and place so authorities could identify them through CCTV footage.

Worth reading in full.

Republic of Ireland to Introduce Midnight Curfew For Hospitality Venues

From Friday, restaurants, nightclubs, and pubs will have to shut their doors at midnight due to a state-enforced curfew intended to curb a rise in Covid cases. Other restrictions will also come into effect by the end of week, such as vaccine passport measures for cinemas and theatres. Sky News has the story.

So-called Covid passes (proof of vaccination), which are already required for indoor hospitality, will now also be needed to go to a cinema or theatre. Gyms and hair salons will continue to be exempt from this requirement.

The public will also be urged to work from home again unless it is absolutely necessary for them to go to the office or workplace.

The midnight curfew is being seen as a major blow to the hospitality sector in the run-up to the Christmas party season.

The industry had only just returned to some semblance of normality, with a previous curfew of 11.30pm removed at the end of October.

Reacting to the move, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, which represents around 4,000 Irish publicans, said: “the news that restricted trading hours are set to be reintroduced is a hugely disappointing development for the many late-night pubs and night clubs many of whom will now be forced to shut just three weeks after reopening.”

The body’s Chief Executive, Padraig Cribben, said: “the decision to introduce a new closing time of midnight will effectively close many late-night pubs and nightclubs.

“It will also seriously restrict other outlets at the most critical time of the year.”

Publicans are now calling for discontinued state financial supports for affected businesses to be reintroduced.

The Government has been forced to take action after infection rates soared in recent weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Tens of Thousands of 12-15 Year-Olds Vaccinated in Ireland as Roll-Out Extends

There have been long queues outside vaccine clinics in the Republic of Ireland this weekend, with parents waiting in the rain to take advantage of the extension of the country’s vaccine roll-out by getting their children ‘jabbed’. Sky News has the story.

While the youngsters could get a shot from Friday, the roll-out began in earnest on Saturday with long queues seen outside vaccination centres.

The Republic of Ireland joins the likes of the United States, Israel, France and a number of other nations who are inoculating young people against Covid.

The U.K. has taken a different approach, with vaccinations only offered to 12 to 15 year-olds with certain medical conditions, or to those who live with vulnerable family members.

In Ireland, about 75,000 in the age range had registered for an appointment by Saturday, with bookings having been open for 48 hours.

Parental consent is needed, with the Pfizer or Moderna jab on offer.

Bill and Sarah Shelley, aged 14 and 12, were taken by their father Michael to get a vaccine in Dublin.

The family queued in the rain to get their shots.

Michael said: “We’re very pleased, I’m delighted they’ve got their first vaccine. …

More than 80% of adults in the Republic of Ireland are fully inoculated, and some 90% have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

The Health Service Executive wants to vaccinate those in the 12-15 range “rapidly and quickly”, and that the decision marked a “very strong point” on the country’s fight against COVID.

Another 2,074 coronavirus cases were reported in the country on Saturday.

There were 229 people with COVID in hospital, 43 of whom were in intensive care.

Worth reading in full.

The Covid Witch-Hunts

We’re publishing an original article today by Dr Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, about the parallels between the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries and the move today to discriminate against those who have not been vaccinated against Covid. She begins by denouncing the introduction of vaccine passports in the Republic of Ireland.

In the Republic of Ireland as of July 26th, only those who have accepted two jabs are allowed to go inside the pub – that den of such life and good cheer that there is an Irish Pub to be found in the remotest corners of the globe.

On va à l’Irish? a French friend of mine used to say to his college mates, when they had a free afternoon in Poitiers.

Can this really be happening? Can the people of my native land really be refusing entry at pub doors to friends and neighbours who have not agreed to receive a particular medical treatment? I’ve been gone for over a decade – have things really changed that much?

What of the good-humoured scepticism that used to mitigate every piece of Irish officialdom? I know someone who lost his Irish passport while living and working illegally in the U.S., and who managed to have it replaced via a network of ex-patriots in the police and the passport office there. Years ago, I was stopped by the Gardai for exceeding the speed limit on a stretch of road approaching Cork city – “You were travelling quickly there, do you know that?” asked the garda. “God, I’m sorry,” I said. “Watch yourself next time, girl,” he said. That was it.

And what of the courage that used to lie beneath these soft to-and-fros of Irish life? …

The two have gone hand-in-hand – the courage and the craic, the friendliness and the fight. A verve for life and for people and for talk will tend to draw a person into whatever news is abroad and whatever struggle is afoot.

But now they’ve disappeared hand-in-hand, it looks like. Irish men and women sit well apart from other Irish men and women because their Government has ruled that they must or because they’re afraid of getting sick, or both.

The words of W.B. Yeats resound in my despondency: “Was it for this the wild geese spread? For this that all the blood was shed?”

Worth reading in full.

Ireland Will Finally Distinguish Between Hospital Patients Actually Ill From Covid and Those Who Simply Test Positive

The Irish Government has announced that it will change the way it collects data on Covid hospitalisations by distinguishing between those who are admitted to hospital because of the virus and those who test positive after being admitted for other reasons. It’s only taken them 17 months! RTÉ has the story.

At present, the Health Service Executive [HSE] Covid hub website states that there are 141 people in hospital who have tested positive for Covid, of whom 22 are in ICU.

A Government spokesperson said it is “seeking better data on hospitalisations in order to better inform decision making.

“This includes details on the total number of positive cases in hospital, the number who contracted Covid while in hospital, and those being treated for Covid specifically.”

RTÉ has also requested this information from the HSE but no data has been forthcoming.

The Government spokesperson added: “Details are also being sought on how many travel-related cases had been fully vaccinated.

“The matter will be discussed further with the National Public Health Emergency Team.”

Last week, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the “great majority of [Covid patients are in hospital] because they are sick with Covid.

“In some cases there are outbreaks, and in those outbreaks people have been picked up who either who didn’t have symptoms, or very mild symptoms.”

However, Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last week that “nearly all the [coronavirus] cases” in the group’s hospitals “are being admitted for other reasons” than Covid.

Of those that do test positive for the disease, “the majority are exhibiting mild or moderate symptoms”.

Worth reading in full.

People Who Have Had One or Zero Doses of a Covid Vaccine to be Barred from Indoor Hospitality When it Reopens in Ireland

The Irish Government is delaying the reopening of indoor hospitality, along with other indoor activities, due to fears over the Indian Delta variant. To add insult to injury, only those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid, and who have a pass to prove it, will be allowed into indoor venues when restrictions are finally eased. People who have only received one dose of a vaccine, or who – for medical or other personal reasons – are unvaccinated, will be forced to stay outside. BBC News has more.

Indoor hospitality was due to reopen on July 5th.

When it reopens, indoor hospitality will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated against Covid, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin has said.

The recommendation had been made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). …

Mr Martin said while there will be an increase in the number of people who can attend outdoor events and the number who can attend weddings will be increased to 50 as planned, “the return to other indoor activities including hospitality will be delayed”.

“NPHET’s clear advice based on the modelling it has done is that given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the safest way to now proceed with the return of indoor hospitality is to limit access to those who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid infection,” he said. …

“The simple truth is that we are in a race between the variants and the vaccines and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the vaccine wins.” …

The Taoiseach gave no date as to when indoor dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants will resume.

Restaurateurs and publicans have expressed their anger and frustration at Mr Martin’s comments…

The plans have been criticised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which said it was “astounded” that indoor hospitality will face a further delay.

In a statement, the group said it believed the policy is discriminatory and unworkable. 

“Restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the unenviable, complex and difficult position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non-vaccinated customers to outdoor dining,” its Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said. 

“Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts.”

He added that many people working in the hospitality sector are in the unvaccinated age groups, and could potentially be asked to refuse service to their peers.

Worth reading in full.

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Hails “Day of Freedom” as Restrictions Are Partially Eased – but Hotels, Pubs and Restaurants Will Remain Closed Until June

Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has branded Monday a “day of hope and freedom” following the partial easing of lockdown restrictions.

A number of businesses have been able to resume service. But much of Ireland’s society – including hotels, pubs and restaurants – will remain closed until June at the earliest. BBC News has the story.

The Republic had been at the highest level of restrictions – level five – since Christmas.

But close-contact services, such as hairdressers, are now reopening and click-and-collect retail has resumed.

People are now also able to travel across the country.

They can move outside their own county for the first time in more than four months. Sports training can also resume.

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme on Monday that 12,000 businesses were due to reopen this week and 100,000 people could return to work.

He said the current financial support for businesses would be in place until the end of June…

The easing of restrictions in the Republic of Ireland is part of a phased relaxation of the country’s strict Covid lockdown announced by Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin in April.

Libraries, museums, galleries and other cultural attractions are also opening…

The measures permit people to travel for non-essential journeys outside their county and up to 50 people can attend weddings, funerals and other religious services.

Three households, or a group of six people, can meet outdoors, including in private gardens, and a vaccinated household can meet an unvaccinated one indoors.

Some dates have been laid out for when (“all being well”!) lockdown restrictions will further ease.

From May 17th, all non-essential shops in the Republic of Ireland can reopen to customers.

From June 2nd, hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation will be permitted to trade.

All pubs, regardless of whether they serve food, along with restaurants can open for outdoor service on June 7th.

The summer relaxation is premised on containing new variants and accelerating a vaccination programme that is well behind Northern Ireland’s.

Worth reading in full.