State will not impose new restrictions this week amid ‘tentative signs’ Covid surge abating

State will not impose new restrictions this week amid ‘tentative signs’ Covid surge abating

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No further Covid restrictions will be imposed by the Government this week, as Ministers and public health officials wait until at least the end of next week before deciding if further measures are required to tackle the fourth wave.

Ministers and officials said they saw tentative signs the huge recent spike in infections, hospital cases and ICU admissions was beginning to abate, though Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was too early to be definitive.

Meanwhile, plans for the State to subsidise antigen tests, bringing the cost down to €2-€3 each, have been further delayed and may not now be ready for approval until next week.

It’s understood that officials in the Department of Enterprise raised concerns that the subsidised price for pharmacies – which would have been in the region of €3-€4 per test – was about the same price supermarket discounters were already selling them for, therefore making the market price of a test no cheaper for consumers. The department is in touch with retailers on mechanisms for subsidising, with an aim of pricing between €1 and €2 per test.

While acute concerns about the situation in hospitals remain, the Government has adopted a wait-and-see attitude on the imposition of further restrictions.

Levelling off

Speaking to reporters last night, Mr Varadkar said it appeared the positivity rate of Covid-19 tests was “starting to level off”, but that it was too early to be sure. “We will as a Government seek to avoid imposing extreme restrictions if we can,” he said.

There was no discussion of Covid-19 at Cabinet on Tuesday, with Ministers afterwards saying there was no appetite “for more extreme or severe measures”. One Cabinet source said any assumption that tighter restrictions would necessarily follow last week’s measures was incorrect. One person familiar with discussions on the issue said Ministers believed the approach to the fourth wave should not be the same as earlier waves

On Tuesday night, the Department of Health reported 3,666 new Covid cases. There were 638 Covid patients in hospital, down 46 from Monday, of whom 130 were in ICU, an increase of four.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan told opposition parties the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was unlikely to recommend further measures following its meeting this week. In a briefing for opposition spokespeople, Dr Holohan said the focus would be on evaluating existing measures, but that while he was hopeful, there could be no guarantees given the current trajectory of the disease.

ICU concerns

It’s understood Dr Holohan and Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Health, briefed officials in Government Buildings after they met the Opposition. Government sources indicated t

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