"It's increasingly clear that we are experiencing another surge of COVID infection," Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in a live address today, November 16.
This is the fourth surge Ireland has experienced, the Taoiseach said, but this time is different thanks to the success of the vaccination programme.
He continued: "We need to act now to deal with this surge.
"I've always been clear that protecting public health is our first responsibility. I've also been clear that the government will not hesitate to respond in changes to the profile of the disease, and that is what we've done today."
You can watch Taoiseach Micheál Martin's address here:
Coming into place immediately
Household close contacts who are fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms should now restrict their movements until they have 3 negative antigen test results within 5 days.
The HSE advise that you should do 3 antigen tests in total. You can do them at any time of the day. You should do your 3 antigen tests in this order:
- first test on the day you get your tests
- second test 2 days after your first test
- third test 2 days after your second test
Coming into place from midnight Thursday, November 18
- everyone should revert to working from home unless it is necessary to attend the workplace in person
- you will need COVID-19 passes (based on vaccination or recovery) for cinemas and theatres
- closing times for all on-licensed premises (except for guests staying in hotels) will move to midnight with all customers vacated from the premises by that time
Vaccine booster programme
Booster vaccinations are currently being administered to those aged over 60 in the community and residents in long-term care facilities, the immunocompromised, and healthcare workers.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is already planning to expand capacity further through both the pharmacy sector and vaccination centres over the coming weeks, and will now plan a further ramp-up of the delivery programme in the coming days in line with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice received last night to extend the programme to those aged 16-59 with underlying conditions and to those aged 50 to 59.
Vaccination remains the single most effective protection against COVID-19 and always remains available for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated. Vaccines are proving highly effective in preventing deaths and serious illness from COVID-19.
In contrast, this week, the HSE said 40% of people in hospitals are unvaccinated although they constitute just 7% of the adult population. The unvaccinated constitute 52% of admissions to ICU and the partially vaccinated another 5%.
While the high uptake of vaccination is having a considerable positive impact on the conversion of case numbers into admissions to hospital and ICU, vaccination alone will not prevent transmission and the range of public health behaviours will continue to be a critical component of the collective response to COVID-19.
These behaviours include:
- acting fast, isolating and getting tested if we have symptoms
- wearing our face coverings where appropriate
- making sure that indoor spaces are well ventilated
- maintaining adequate social distancing whenever appropriate
- covering our coughs and sneezes and keeping our hands clean
To protect ourselves and the most vulnerable in our communities, we should also:
- prioritise the activities we undertake
- limit our activities in riskier environments (indoor, crowded environments, where distancing is difficult)
- take regular antigen tests if we are asymptomatic and engaged in activities in riskier environments
- hold off on visiting vulnerable people after undertaking these activities
People in age groups approved for booster shots should take up their vaccine appointment as a priority when offered it and exercise particular caution until they receive their booster dose.
Working from home
Following today’s decisions, engagement has taken place with employers and trade unions, through the Labour Employer Economic Forum, on updating guidance on working from home unless necessary to attend in person, as well as strengthening communication on protective measures, as outlined in the Work Safely Protocol, for those who continue to attend workplaces.
The government continues to offer a range of economic supports to assist businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic as set out in the Economic Recovery Plan, which are amongst the most extensive direct supports offered within the EU. They include the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (with expenditure to date of over €5.4bn), tax warehousing, a targeted commercial rates waiver, along with low-cost loan schemes to businesses, such as the COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, mentoring programmes, and direct grant programmes. A range of sectoral supports also remain in place and, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, the Gaeltacht, Sports and the Media, the government remains in ongoing contact with the hospitality and entertainment sectors on the challenges they face due to COVID-19.
There will be no change in current arrangements for student attendance and on-site activities in school, further and higher education institutions in line with COVID response plans for those sectors.
Work is continuing with agencies and inspectorates, including through the Regulators’ Forum, to build upon efforts to date and to strengthen compliance and inspection activities. The effectiveness of this compliance activity also relies critically on overall public attitudes and support from the relevant business sectors.