Tanaiste rules out bringing back Covid restrictions

There are currently around 1,100 people in hospital with Covid, with some 50 people in ICU.

20 March 2022

The Tanaiste has ruled out bringing back Covid restrictions despite Ireland battling another wave of the virus.

Leo Varadkar said the rise in the number of Covid cases is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic”.

There are currently around 1,100 people in hospital with Covid, with some 50 people in ICU.

Mr Varadkar said about half of those with Covid were already in hospital and that their positive cases were picked up during routine checks.

Mr Varadkar made the comments as the country commemorated those who lost their lives to Covid.

The event, entitled the National Day of Remembrance and Reflection Ceremony, took place in the Garden of Remembrance in north Dublin on Sunday.

The ceremony paid tribute to those who died during the pandemic and those who battled the challenges posed by the disease.

More than 6,600 people have died from Covid in Ireland since March 2020.

“Even as we mark this occasion today, there are about 50 people in ICU with Covid and 1,100 people in hospital,” Mr Varadkar said.

“That, of course, reminds us that the pandemic is ongoing.

“It’s a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.

“We’re monitoring the situation very tightly, and really encouraging people who haven’t had their booster to have that because we know that the immunity from the virus wears off.

“We’re also giving consideration as to whether we need to start on a fourth dose programme, particularly for older people in those who are medically vulnerable.”

Asked whether the Government is considering bringing in further restrictions to deal with the current wave, Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t think it’s going to require the reimposition of restrictions.

“It is a very different situation at the moment. About half of those in hospital with Covid would be in hospital anyway, it’s incidental finding in their cases.

“This is another wave but we don’t anticipate it will necessitate the reimposition of restrictions, but other things need to continue.

“We need to make sure that people have those boosters and third doses.”

He said that Europe is currently seeing a second wave of the Omicron variant.

Mr Varadkar also said he would envisage senior people within government and the HSE to be called as witness during the Covid inquiry.

His comments conflict with those by Taoiseach Micheal Martin who said that he does not expect HSE chief executive Paul Reid or chief medical officer Tony Holohan to be called as witnesses.

Mr Varadkar said that the inquiry should be set up and running this year, or in the next couple of months.

“I think it is important that we work out and establish what we did right, and what we could have done better,” Mr Varadkar said.

“We shouldn’t assume this is the last pandemic that we will face in our lifetimes.

“I think what the Taoiseach was saying is that he didn’t envisage it being an adversarial inquiry, where people were kind of hauled over the coals.

“That’s not what we want.

“But in terms of people giving evidence, it would be envisaged that people who were involved in response, including people who were in government and also people in senior positions in the HSE and the Department of Health would.

“But it’s not about getting people, it’s about trying to establish what was done right, what could have been done better, and how we could be better prepared for another pandemic.

“One thing we do need to bear in mind is that many people who’d be asking to take part in the acquiring of evidence are also the people who are still battling the pandemic.”

Mr Varadkar also thanked those who were involved in organising the ceremony on Sunday to remember those who died from Covid.

Government ministers and opposition TDs were among those who attended the ceremony.

The event included a specially commissioned poem, and reflections by a hospital chaplain and a representative of those bereaved.

Music was provided by the National Ambulance Service, the Army No 1 Band, soloist Claudia Boyle, violinist Lynda O’Connor and cellist Gerald Peregrine, creator of Covid Care Concerts.

Representative of those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and those who worked on the front line over the last two years across all services attended the event.

Representatives of people who lost family members to Covid, worked in nursing homes, volunteered and worked in retails, laid wreaths in the cruciform pool throughout the event.

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