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Donnelly: No red line number at which COVID restrictions will be reintroduced

Stephen Donnelly has warned elective surgeries may have to be cancelled if ICU numbers continue to increase.
Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.06 28 Oct 2021


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Donnelly: No red line number at which COVID restrictions will be reintroduced


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

11.06 28 Oct 2021


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The Health Minister says there's no red line number at which the Government will reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Stephen Donnelly has warned elective surgeries may have to be cancelled if ICU numbers continue to increase.

He confirmed the vaccine booster campaign for over-60s will begin next week, while vaccinated close contacts of confirmed cases are being sent antigen tests from today.

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Minister Donellly was speaking amid the continued surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said there are no plans for another lockdown, but extra restrictions can't be completely taken off the table.

Minister Donnelly told The Pat Kenny Show the Government doesn't have a trigger point in mind for when more measures might be needed.

Donnelly: No red line number at which COVID restrictions will be reintroduced

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He said: "I can tell you the modelling is quite sobering.

"As of this morning, we're at 101 people in ICU.

"If we continue on the current trajectory, the modelling suggests we could reach 150-200 in ICU - again, the vast majority of those will be the small number of people who are unvaccinated."

He acknowledged current case numbers are high and the country's in a "tough spot", but the level of vaccine uptake is the reason why the Government has been able to proceed with reopening plans.

He said: "This is why it’s so important there’s full compliance across the [hospitality] sector.

“The absolutely clear understanding is the only people going into a bar, restaurant or nightclub are those that are fully vaccinated.”

In the meantime, he said officials have "got to keep engaging" with the 7% of the adult populations who've said no to vaccines so far.

Booster shots

Meanwhile, people aged over 60 will start getting booster vaccines 'from next week'.

Minister Donnelly has confirmed anyone who received an AstraZeneca vaccine will get a Pfizer mRNA shot as their booster.

People aged 60-69 will get their boosters via mass vaccination centres, while those aged 70-79 will get their booster from their GP.

While booster vaccines have been approved for all over 60s, there have been growing calls for healthcare workers to get boosters soon as many were vaccinated much earlier in the year.

Minister Donnelly said there are discussions ongoing with NIAC about boosters for healthcare workers.

He said: “I would do it tomorrow - I think there’s a very strong case for boosters for healthcare workers.

“The advice from NIAC has always worked by cohort-by-cohort.

“We’re engaging very closely with NIAC on this - it’s something we want to see.”

He said he doesn't believe any healthcare worker in Ireland should choose not to get vaccinated, and any remaining unvaccinated staff are being "redeployed away from patient-facing, high-risk roles".

He noted the vast majority are vaccinated, and there's only a "very small number" who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Minister Donnelly said he's also in discussion with health officials to see if there’s a need for those who’ve received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to now get an extra one.

Rapid tests

One measure announced last week was that vaccinated close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases will now receive antigen tests.

Minister Donnelly said that's now getting underway.

He said: "Today we’re taking a big step forward: now, if you’re deemed to be a close contact, you’ll be sent a box of rapid tests in the post.

“We’re going to start sending them out today - we expect households to start getting them from tomorrow.”

People who are sent the tests will receive a document containing all the details for taking the test, and what to do depending on the results.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 will still be advised to get a PCR test, while positive antigen results will also need to be confirmed with a PCR test.

Minister Donnelly said the test is “very accurate” in telling people they’re infectious. However, it’s not a “green light” that someone doesn’t have the virus.

He also acknowledged that the rollout of the rapid tests more widely is “slower than I would have liked”.


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