Monday, January 24, 2022

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has today been notified of 3,692 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In addition, on Sunday 23 January 4,347 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

As of 8am today, 885 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 76 are in ICU.

Meanwhile, some semblance of normal life is returning across Kildare this week in the wake of a significant easing of COVID restrictions at the weekend.

Following public health advice, the government agreed that most of the public health measures in place could be removed. It was noted that people’s efforts over recent weeks to reduce social contacts and take care when they did meet others, combined with the high uptake of the vaccination and booster programme, has made a ‘considerable’ difference to the public health situation.

As of 6am last Saturday morning, restrictions such as an early closing time for hospitality and events, capacity restrictions for outdoor events (including sporting fixtures) and indoor events (including weddings), formal requirements for physical distancing, restrictions on nightclubs and requirements for a valid digital COVID cert to enter various premises have all been scrapped.

Physical distancing requirements in hospitality are gone, as is the need to maintain contact details.

And, although the response from workers may well be mixed, since yesterday (Monday) a phased return to physical attendance in workplaces across Kildare can begin.

Some measures will stay in place until 28 February, like requirements for mask wearing in certain settings:

– Public transport, taxis and at stations/airports/ports

– Retail premises (including shopping centres, libraries, cinemas, theatres, museums, post offices, banks), public offices and at premises providing specified services and businesses (including salons, hairdressers, travel agents, laundries, dry cleaners, bookmakers)

– Customer facing roles in premises where food and beverages are sold for consumption on the premises

Protective measures in schools and early learning and care facilities will also remain in place for the time being.

Despite the reaction in some quarters, it’s not the end of the pandemic by any means, and the government has reiterated the need for ongoing close monitoring of the virus.

Still, the current prognosis seems rather positive. In a letter to the Minister for Health, dated 20 January, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan noted that Omicron is now responsible for approximately 97% of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Ireland.

“Fortunately, there is now clear evidence that, in comparison to previous variants, Omicron is associated with a significantly reduced population level of severe disease despite continuing high levels of transmission,” he stated. “The overall epidemiological position is improving, and the most recent data indicates that we have now passed a peak in this wave of infection.”

Newbridge-based Senator Fiona O’Loughlin has welcomed the easing of restrictions but has re-emphasised the importance of personal responsibility.

“We are all so happy to see that the restrictions have been all but removed, and that our public health experts and the Government have given the green light for a full reopening of society,” she said. “This is a huge relief for all of us, but mostly for those who work in or own businesses in the hospitality industry, they have been hit so hard and I would encourage everyone in south Kildare to really support local. The more you spend in local businesses the more that gets reinvested in our local communities.

“The scenes from around Kildare of people out socialising and enjoying themselves once again [were] great to see, there was a real sense of optimism in the air. We must also be conscious of those for whom this announcement has caused fear and anxiety. I would ask that we still be respectful of everyone, and if someone is uncomfortable that we give them that extra space, and that we support everyone in our communities to ease back to a more normal routine.”

Senator O’Loughlin added that it’s important to remember that Covid is still out there, “and that we do need to continue to exercise a degree of caution and ensure that we do follow the remaining public health advice as stringently as possible.”

By Conor Forrest
Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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