Martin says further Covid restrictions cannot be ruled out because new measures announced to curb increase

Warning that if the number of Covid cases continues to grow, health care will not be able to cope, Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Tuesday night announced new Covid restrictions for the first time since last winter.

People will be advised to work from home, midnight closing time will be imposed on bars and nightclubs, there will be wider use of antigen tests, and close home contacts of confirmed cases will be ordered to limit movements for five days.

It is expected that in the coming days a plan will be announced to provide antigen tests subsidized by the Government for € 3 each with pharmacies, despite some resistance in the Department of Health.

The department said proposals will be brought to Government “very soon” and that it will finalize a plan to use rapid antigen tests in schools for close contacts of cases.

But Mr Martin has shown little confidence that the moves announced last night will contain the current wave of the virus, saying “it remains to be seen whether the measures will be sufficient” and that he “does not rule out further measures”. Senior government figures fear further restrictions will be needed in the coming weeks as cases in hospitals continue to rise.

“We’re doing this step by step,” Mr. Martin said. The situation would be reviewed in the coming weeks to see if additional measures are required, he said. He said public health experts have indicated they may return with further recommendations in the future if cases continue to rise at the current rate.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU

Intense pressure

A revised modeling shown to the Government suggests that the peak of the current wave will not arrive for about another four weeks, which means that hospitals are facing intense pressure in the meantime.

Senior government figures say they need to accelerate the accelerated vaccine program, though concede that this will not affect the pressures hospitals will face in the immediate future. Opposition parties have criticized the timing of the vaccine launch.

The HSE began administering booster shots to the 460,000 people in their 60s on November 5. However, consumption was slower than expected due to large absenteeism rates among people booked for appointments.

Only 20,500 promotions were administered to the 60-69 age group, a month after the Government announced that they would be included in the program.

Sources say vaccine staff did not observe the same urgency among people about getting a boost as existed when primary vaccines were administered.

A total of 341,000 reinforcement doses have been administered to date, including 23,500 to older residents of long-term care facilities, 100,000 to the 70-79 age group and 131,000 to people aged 80 and over.


Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on Tuesday announced the extension of the enhanced vaccination program to include the over-50s, those with underlying diseases and residents of any age in long-term health facilities.

Social Security Secretary Heather Humphreys said the Pandemic Unemployment Benefit (PUP) “would not be reopened” for people who may lose their jobs in nightclubs, stressing that there are many vacancies in the wider hospitality sector. Both Labor and Sinn Féin have demanded that cuts to the HUDID be reversed.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused the Government of “blurring and delaying” anti-genital testing, health care resources and the accelerated vaccination campaign.

“In the acceleration program, we’ve heard weeks and months of prevarication about that. So if we are now at a sticky gate, it is courtesy of this Government and I really feel very deeply for those businesses that have just reopened and are finding themselves in the first place again, ”Ms McDonald said.

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