- 31 Dec 20
There are now 491 patients with Covid-19 in hospital. The figure has risen rapidly since December 25th, when there were 253 people being treated in hospitals. Dr Tony Holohan noted that if a person was exposed to the virus on Christmas Day, they would be at their most infectious today - New Year's Eve - and urged the public to stay at home.
The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, has confirmed that the country will enforce full Level 5 restrictions until "at least" January 31st in an attempt to bring the latest surge in cases of Covid-19 under control.
The Level 5 restrictions include a ban on all household visits, the closure of non-essential retail and a 5km limit on travel. Other restrictions include the closure of sports including golf and tennis, with the exception of professional or elite sports behind closed doors. The Government also agreed that the ban on air travel and passenger travel on ferries from the UK will be extended to January 6th.
Supports such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will continue to be made available to those impacted by the additional restrictions until at least March.
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, has said the Government has no intention to extend the school closures beyond January 11th, but added they are keeping "everything under review."
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has blamed the surge in infections on what he described as 'substantial amount of social activity’, on the run-up to and around Christmas.
Holohan's comments were made following the announcement of the highest ever daily case numbers in Ireland with 1,718 new cases. The HSE also said that its contact tracers had to phone 2,000 people yesterday, to inform them that they had tested positive for the virus. There were a number of people tested for Covid-19 in the past week who had named 20 to 30 close contacts from the Christmas period.
The decision will rule out any planned 'socially distanced' gigs for the near future, putting a major question mark over the ability of promoters and artists to plan or prepare live shows for 2021.
There are many in the live music and entertainment business in Ireland who fear that further cancellations could lead to the collapse of the industry – with devastating consequences for the lives and livelihoods of musicians, as well as support crew, sound and lighting engineers, and staff across the entire events and entertainment sector.
Meanwhile, there is growing unrest at what is increasingly being seen as the absurdly slow pace of the vaccination campaign here in Ireland. Around 25 nursing homes are to receive the coronavirus vaccine from Monday and there will be a full 'roll-out' the week after, the Chief Executive of Nursing Homes Ireland has said today. On RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Tadhg Daly said their hope is that the two-dose vaccine will be completed across all nursing homes by the end of February.
News that the HSE only made a decision in relation to the IT partner for the vaccination process on December 17th has been greeted with incredulity, with observers arguing that this process should have been initiated at the start of the pandemic, rather than waiting until vaccines had been approved.
“The incredibly slow pace of vaccinations is something we’re going to have to pay for by having our businesses closed,” one leading music industry figure, who preferred not to be named, said.
“There are places where they are aiming to do 150,000 vaccinations a week and we are talking about something like 10,000. It is completely unacceptable. There is a major crisis happening and this is the best we can do? It’s hard to believe."
THE HOSPITALITY SECTOR
The Licensed Vintners Association recently warned that the “tug of war” around re-opening will start again in earnest from the beginning of January 2021, unless the Government starts coming up with more sustainable solutions.
The organisation characterised the actions taken over the Christmas period by Government as proof of their strategy failing the hospitality sector. This will the third lockdown pubs and restaurants across the country have faced. Traditional pubs in Dublin have been closed since March.
“They need to take into account the ongoing uncertainty this is causing, the enormous stress this is putting people working in the industry under and the damage these repeated closures is doing to these businesses," said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA.
"They also need to provide better supports to those working in the hospitality sector, if they still want to have a viable hospitality sector in this country when the pandemic ends. Staff are already seeking out new career paths."