After the six-week lockdown, Taoiseach Micheal Martin last week announced that the country could transition to level 3 on December 1st. Stores, gyms and hairdressers were authorised to reopen following this government decision. According to the Department of Health, the latest figures for the past 24 hours indicate that 215 more people have tested positive for Covid-19 and one further person has died. The total number of cases therefore stands at 74.9k across the country and 2097 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic. The Department stated that people under 45 account for around 63% of new cases. Currently 210 infected people are hospitalised.
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An increase in infections possible during the Christmas period
A rise in Covid-19 infections could become “inevitable” if people gather for Christmas. According to Tanáiste Leo Varadkar, Ireland is highly likely to experience an increase in Covid-19 cases after the Christmas holidays. Varadkar states the example of gatherings in Canada and the United States which led to a significant increase in contamination. “I think it is likely that we will see an increase in cases. That is inevitable when people are mixing again. This isn’t just about foreign travel; it is about people mixing again over Christmas”. The Tánaiste spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland and did not rule out the possibility of a reimplementation of restrictions in January. “We’ve never ruled out the possibility that we would need to reintroduce restrictions for a short period in January”. Leo Varadkar has also been rather confident and optimistic for the coming months and believes that the Covid-19 will end in 2021. He said: “I think with the vaccine, with mass testing, with increased knowledge of how we treat and prevent this disease, we will see the end of the pandemic in 2021”.
Progression of the first vaccine
“There is light at the end of the tunnel” said Taoiseach Martin. The Taoiseach is convinced that 2021 will be a different year, marked by the end of the epidemic. At the beginning of December, he announced that vaccines will soon be available to the population. If the European Union gives Ireland green light, vaccinations against Covid-19 could commence before Christmas. “We’ll be ready” said Micheal Martin for the deployment of vaccinations. Free of charge and not compulsory, people prioritised for vaccinations will be over-70s, people in long-term care and nursing staff.
The government aims to provide 8 million doses, however it remains uncertain what percentage of the population will agree to be vaccinated. “The intention is to vaccinate everyone, to offer it to everyone, free of charge, not compulsory. The best estimate is probably about 70 per cent (of the population vaccinated) is what you would achieve herd immunity,” said Leo Varadkar to Morning Ireland by promising a “very strong campaign”.
Vaccination has started in the UK
Margaret Keenan, a woman from Northern Ireland celebrating her 91st birthday next week has been the first person to be vaccinated in the world. “It was fine. I wasn’t nervous at all. To tell you the truth I got this opportunity of doing it and I was in the hospital. It was a great opportunity,” said Keenan. Vaccinated in a hospital in Coventry, Keenan received the first of the first 800,000 doses developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Another 4 million doses are released by the end of December. Vaccination campaigns also emerged in England, Scotland and Wales.