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Plan now for flu and Covid this winter, health officials tell Taoiseach

The chief medical officer gave a presentation to the North South Ministerial Council on Friday.

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Dr Tony Holohan told ministers to plan for both Covid-19 and flu this winter (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan told ministers to plan for both Covid-19 and flu this winter (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan told ministers to plan for both Covid-19 and flu this winter (Brian Lawless/PA)

Health officials have warned the Irish Government of the need to plan now for winter, the Taoiseach has said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan gave a presentation to politicians at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on Friday. Speaking after the NSMC, Micheal Martin said that the advice was to start planning now for the winter.

Mr Martin said Dr Holohan stressed “the need to start planning for the winter period in terms of the protections we can put in place”.

He said the winter could bring fresh challenges as the country deals with the normal flu season, alongside the Covid pandemic and the Delta variant of the virus.

“We have to be cautious. We have to be careful. We have reopened society very significantly. We’ve got to protect that. We will keep a watching brief on this over August,” Mr Martin said.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin hosted the meeting today (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin hosted the meeting today (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin hosted the meeting today (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Mr Martin also appealed to people to be patient as the vaccine programme continues.

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“Is it too much to ask that we wait another number of weeks to get into a really strong protective situation vis-a-vis our society with a very high numbers of vaccinations?” he said.

Mr Martin was asked about the fact that the Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, has told priests in his diocese that they can proceed with communions and confirmations in the weeks to come.

“I would say to the church authorities that the Government’s only motivation here, in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people, is to protect people’s health.

“I don’t approve of any unilateral breaching of regulations.

“We are always open as a Government to engaging with sectors and engaging with different representative groups. We do appreciate that this is very difficult.”

The first of Ireland’s walk-in vaccination centres opened to the public on Friday morning, with more set to deliver jabs over the bank holiday weekend.

Clinics are open to anyone aged 16 and over who has yet to receive a first dose, with the first walk-in clinic opening at the Clonguish GAA Club in Co Longford at 8am on Friday.

The Midlands Park Hotel in Co Laois opened at 9am on Friday for walk-in vaccinations, as did the Clonmel Park Hotel in Tipperary.

More vaccination centres will welcome walk-ins over the course of the weekend and anyone attending will receive the first dose of the Pfizer jab.

Damien McCallion, the HSE’s national director and lead for the vaccination programme, said the “rationale” for the centres is that “as we move towards the end of this stage of the programme we’re conscious that we want to try and maximise the number of people and give people the maximum opportunity to get vaccinated”.

Most clinics will open for walk-ins on Saturday, Mr McCallion told RTE radio.

“We’re conscious that we’re in the holiday season, so people from one part of the country, for example Dublin, may be holidaying in Clare or Kerry or wherever, can turn up in those centres where they’re holidaying,” he said.

Anyone arriving at a walk-in centre will need to take photo ID, and anyone aged 16 and 17 can take a copy of their birth certificate.

Mr McCallion said 16- and 17-year-olds do not need parental consent to receive the vaccine.

He said he expects children aged between 12 and 16 to be offered a vaccination in August.

On Friday morning, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, warned that people need to “understand the level of risk in their local area”.

Donegal, Louth and Galway are among the counties with the highest 14-day incidence rate.

More than 5.7 million vaccines have been administered, with 86% of people partially vaccinated and 71% of people now fully vaccinated.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

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(PA Graphics)

Health Service Executive (HSE) chief Paul Reid warned on Friday that, while the general outlook is positive, hospitals are still under pressure from a rising number of hospital admissions linked to Covid infections.

“We’re not out of the woods in terms of the trend of hospitalisations,” he told RTE radio.

He added that, regardless of whether a patient is admitted to hospital due to a Covid-19 infection, or tests positive for the virus after being admitted for a different reason, each case has a significant impact on the health service.

“Regardless of what number it is, every Covid positive patient has a disproportionate effect on our hospital system.”


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