Michael Staines
Michael Staines

15.03 6 Jul 2021


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Health officials will be closely watching the effect of the Delta variant on UK hospitalisation rates before making further decisions on reopening in Ireland.

Despite surging case numbers, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night confirmed that the vast amount of COVID-19 restrictions would end on July 19th.

Officials have noted that the UK’s vaccine rollout has “severely weakened” the link between cases and hospitalisations

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In the last 24 hours in the UK, around 27,000 new cases have been reported; however, the number of patients in hospital is about 90% lower than it was the last time the UK was reporting similar figures.

Reopening

Minister Ryan said Irish officials will examine the UK figures before making further decisions on reopening.

“We are going to get everyone vaccinated I hope and everyone back dining and being able to socialise - it will just take a bit of time and we need to get it right,” he said.

“I think we will know more later on this week. I think some of the health data from the UK is very significant in terms of just looking at what is the level of hospitalisations and that will give us a clearer signal in how we do things.”

He said nobody at Cabinet disagrees with the NPHET modelling that led to the decision to delay indoor dining – noting that the figures published by authorities in other European countries are similar.

“What is different I suppose is the interpretation of the modelling in the UK,” he said. “Particularly on the level of hospitalisations, they have taken a certain view.

“I think we will have a slight advantage in being able to see, even this week … Seeing some of their data will give us a sense of whether that interpretation is correct or not.”

Modelling

It emerged last week that the NPHET modelling did not account for new vaccine recommendations allowing younger people to access AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Minister Ryan said the rollout is currently only 1% faster and insisted it will “take time” to redo the modelling.

“The more important data is the level of hospitalisations,” he said. “That is the one we are really looking at very closely.”

Freedom Day

He said Britain’s reopening will mean increased restrictions on travel between the two islands as the Delta variant already accounts for 70% of cases here.

“We do have to maintain our own protection here but I don’t think that will influence our connection with the UK as much as it did three or four weeks ago because we have the Delta variant here now too,” he said.

It comes as new data from Israel suggests that the Pfizer vaccine remains 93% effective at preventing hospitalisations and serious illness from Delta.

The vaccine is less effective at preventing transmission however, blocking 64% of infections compared to the 94% it was blocking back in May.


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