The cabinet committee on Covid-19 will meet today to discuss what can be done to arrest surging Covid-19 cases.
enior government officials have indicated an unwillingness to return to lockdowns but Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday, “nothing can be ruled out” when it comes to coronavirus.
Ireland has one of the highest 14-day incidences of Covid-19 in the world at the moment at 1,036 cases per 100,000 as of latest data available, with more than 1pc of the population testing positive for the virus in the past fortnight.
Last week, Ireland breached 5,000 new cases reported in a daily toll for the first time since January and as of this morning, there are 617 people in hospital with the virus – an increase of 119 in the past week. This is all despite having one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world.
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Ireland will cross the 500,000 total cases mark today as senior government and health figures meet to consider Nphet’s latest advice.
As Ireland appears to near a cliff edge in terms of the profile of the virus in the community, Independent.ie have examined what other countries are doing in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus that is surging across Europe.
Austria has moved to take a somewhat radical measure whereby they have instituted a lockdown, but only for people who are not fully vaccinated.
This means as of midnight last night, unvaccinated individuals aged 12 and older are banned from leaving their homes except to go to work, to shop for food, go for a walk or getting vaccinated.
This is due to Austria’s poor vaccination uptake when compared to the rest of Western Europe, with less than two thirds (65pc) of the population fully vaccinated (Ireland’s rate is 90.71pc). The lockdown will last for 10 days initially, before being reviewed. A fine of €1,450 will be issued to anyone in contravention of the lockdown.
The move is likely to see a quarter of the population locked down except for partaking in basic activities.
Such a move in Ireland is highly unlikely as over 90pc of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated already.
Israel is a few months further down the road in comparison to Ireland, so to speak, and their experience is one that government officials may have in mind when meeting today and tomorrow.
Israel, brokering a deal with Pfizer, were among the fastest countries in the world to vaccinate most of its population. Then, it experienced a surge in cases, as Ireland is now, despite high rates of vaccination.
Israel then moved to mandate a third booster shot for the entire population and it saw the profile of the virus come back under control.
Many health officials are now of the opinion that a course of vaccination should be three shots and not two, with top US doctor Tony Fauci saying the data from Israel shows that a booster shot is “absolutely essential” for all adults.
Prof Luke O’Neill yesterday indicated his belief boosters should be extended to the over-50s at least, as is the case in the UK.
While vaccine equity worldwide has come into the picture when the proliferation of the booster programme has been discussed, surging cases in Ireland may see the boosters extended to a far larger swathe of the population this winter.
Research in the Lancet medical journal also found that booster shots were 81pc more effective at preventing deaths when compared to people who had received two doses at least five months beforehand.
The Dutch Government has aimed to strike a balance when it comes to spiralling Covid cases.
They instituted the first partial lockdown in Western Europe since summer when they ordered shops and the hospitality sector to close earlier from Sunday.
The country, which has a population of roughly 17 million people, saw over 16,000 cases confirmed in one day last week.
Restaurants, supermarkets and pubs must now close at 8pm, while non-essential retailers must close at 6pm.
The three-week partial lockdown will also bar spectators from attending large sporting events and people will work from home and limit visitors to their home to four at any one time.
While the extension of the Covid pass to outside of the hospitality sector will be a contentious issue in Ireland, it would not be a unique stance as the Dutch are currently investigating what indoor venues unvaccinated people can be prohibited from entering. This move is a bid to protect them from contracting the virus from vaccinated people and becoming sick, Dutch officials have been quoted as saying.
As of today, the use of a Covid pass is needed to gain access to indoor venues such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls. People who are not vaccinated can use evidence of a recent negative lateral flow, or antigen test.
This comes as Wales experienced a surge in cases leaving it with the highest incidence of Covid-19 in the UK.
Wales has also changed isolation guidance so that all children aged 5-17 and fully vaccinated adults must still isolate and get a negative PCR test if someone in their home has tested positive or has symptoms.
This is in contrast to Ireland where the HSE is now providing antigen kits to fully-vaccinated close contacts of confirmed cases who do not have symptoms.
Staff and students at secondary schools in Wales are now also encouraged to test themselves for Covid-19 in an attempt to tackle Covid outbreaks in schools.
Health officials in Ireland have long maintained schools are a safe place relative to the home when it comes to the chances of contracting Covid and have not introduced such measures.
Again, people in Wales are now encouraged to work from home, where possible.
Germany has taken a similar line to Austria in some of its states. In Saxony, and Berlin in the near future, unvaccinated people will be excluded from many areas of public life.
Many German states will ban unvaccinated people from entering restaurants, bars and nightclubs and will not permit the use of a negative test result to gain access to these venues, as was the case.
Cases in Germany are as high as they have been since the start of the pandemic, with many regions’ hospitals under severe pressure due to the number of people sick with Covid-19 presenting for treatment.
The country has also moved to tighten travel restrictions for some nearby countries due to their high incidences. Arrivals from Austria, Czechia and Hungary will now have to isolate for 10 days upon arrival in Germany if they are not fully vaccinated. They must also carry a locator form on them at all times and present this to an official when requested to do so.