Advice to work from home set to return as Cabinet Covid subcommittee to ‘take stock’ in meeting today

The Government is expected to advise people to work from home where possible due to the high level of Covid-19 infection at present, but Ministers are to resist any calls for more widespread restrictions.

A recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team to return to a policy of working from home where feasible has won the support of a number of Cabinet members as the numbers sick with the disease in hospital continue to rise.

The Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee will meet on Monday evening to discuss the latest Nphet advice and also to “take stock” of the current pandemic picture.

Ministers and public health officials will also discuss new modelling relating to the expected trajectory of the disease over winter.

There will then be a full Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to approve any new measures. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is also expected to brief his Cabinet colleagues on his plan to roll out subsidised antigen testing.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said he was “extremely concerned” about the prevalence of Covid-19 across the State and that “nothing can be ruled out” in terms of new restrictions.

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU



He said Ireland was in a different place this winter compared with last as a result of the vaccination programme and booster campaign, which is under way.

A Government source said any talk of reimposing sweeping restrictions was “premature”, with significant resistance in Government to the idea of another lockdown this winter.

Hospitals ‘grim’

The HSE is working on a plan for antigen testing in schools, which is due to be sent to Government in the coming days. HSE chief executive Paul Reid said yesterday that hospitals were in a “very grim” situation and suffering “severe distress” as Covid-19 cases infections soar.

More than 8,400 cases of the disease were reported in the State over the weekend and the number of people being treated in hospital stood at 582 on Sunday, an increase of 26 on the previous day. A total of 106 people were being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care units across the State on Sunday.

Mr Reid said stress levels in hospitals were as bad now as had been last January but that the situation was very different thanks to the benefits of vaccines. He said the HSE was not calling for the return of major restrictions, but that people urgently needed to take individual responsibility.

“We need to retract from the level of activity that we are carrying out, it’s putting a level of strain on the healthcare system that we cannot cope with if it continues at the levels that it’s at,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

Speaking in Enniskillen, the Taoiseach said the Government was “extremely concerned, very concerned, about the high rise in numbers and indeed the impact that is having on hospitalisation, admissions to intensive care units and illness, but vaccination is protecting.”

Government impatience

There is understood to be some impatience in Government at the speed of deliberations from bodies like the National Immunisation Advisory Committee about the expansion of the vaccine booster campaign to more age groups.

Labour leader Alan Kelly this weekend called for booster shots to be rolled out to the entire population from early next year.

About 400,000 of two million booster shots under the programme have been completed and tens of thousands are scheduled over the coming weeks.

Mr Martin said there was growing evidence that the third shot was even more “impactful” than receiving the second.

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