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Omicron variant accounts for 27% of all new Covid-19 cases, Health Minister says

Stephen Donnelly said the number of cases linked to the new variant in Ireland had doubled in the past few days.

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A walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

A walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

A walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said it is estimated that the Omicron variant represents 27% of all new Covid-19 cases in Ireland.

It means the number of cases linked to the new variant has doubled in the last few days.

Mr Donnelly also said that boosters provide a “dramatic and essential additional protection”.

Mr Donnelly said people in their 40s would be able to get appointments for their booster jabs at mass vaccination centres next week.

They will begin to administer the doses the following week, the Dail was told.

“Last week the Omicron variant made up about 1% of all new cases in Ireland. By the weekend it was up to 5%,” Mr Donnelly told the Dail.

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“On Tuesday, the rate that was reported was 14%. Today, just two days later, I can confirm that the Omicron variant now comprises over 27% of all new cases.”

Meanwhile, Paul Reid has said that Wednesday was the largest daily booster vaccination number, with 50,000 doses administered.

The chief executive of the HSE said that 1.35 million booster jabs had been administered to date.

He set out the HSE’s revised plan to expand the booster programme, to speed up the number of vaccines in the coming weeks and months.

He said the plan aimed to mitigate “to the greatest extent” the projected effect of the Omicron variant.

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Queues of people form outside a walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

Queues of people form outside a walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

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Queues of people form outside a walk-in vaccination centre in Greystones, Co Wicklow (Damien Storan/PA)

“The revised plan is geared towards increased capacity, supporting us accelerating all age groups forward than originally planned, and equally putting in additional options for the public through various different channels to receive a vaccination.

“From a capacity point of view, while we’re putting in place our extended hours of the centres, all centres all across the country will now move to 12-hour days; 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

“They will have a combination of appointments and walk-in clinics.

“We’ve redeployed very significant staffs across the health service, and indeed continued our recruitment overall.

“We’ve had further supports from the Defence Forces.

“We’ve had a request to go out across all of the other government departments and public service agencies for some further support and admin support.

We are increasing the capacity of our existing sites, with some extra bays and extra vaccinators going inPaul Reid

“We are increasing the capacity of our existing sites, with some extra bays and extra vaccinators going in. And we’re also putting in some extra sites at the Richmond Barracks (Dublin), the RDS and in Cork City.”

As many as 1,300 GPs are expected to be participating in the programme.

The HSE also expects to have 700 pharmacies delivering jabs by the end of the week.

Mr Reid said that vaccinations would begin for high-risk children aged five to 11 next week.

The portal for another two high-risk groups in those aged five to 11 will open on December 28.

Vaccinations for those groups will take place on January 3.

The remaining five- to 11-year-olds will commence in the week of January 10.

Mr Reid said that the public’s response to restrictions was starting to take effect on the health services.

“We should take good confidence from the recent reaction from the public, which has made a very significant impact for us, based on their actions,” Mr Reid added.

“For the first time in many weeks, we’re seeing consistency and trend down in hospitalisations.

“Ultimately, overall we’re at 443 Covid patients in hospital this morning, which is 18% down on last week, and in ICU 105 patients mid-morning.

“We need to see a continued downward trend because the base level that we’re at puts us at extremely high risk levels, if any levels of predictions related to Omicron emerge as true.

“So it would be an extremely high level to go into a wave of Omicron.”

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said: “There’s much talk about a weakened link between harm and cases, but we know from the Delta variant, if you have enough cases ultimately some of them will always translate into harm, whether it’s hospitalisation, or ICU.”


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