The Government is "extremely concerned" with the "high rise" in Covid-19 numbers and the impact that is having on hospitalisation and admissions to ICUs, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin earlier said "nothing can be ruled" out in relation to the coronavirus.

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid has described the situation with Covid-19 in hospitals as "grim".

The Cabinet committee on Covid-19 will meet tomorrow evening before a full Cabinet meeting is held on Tuesday.

It will consider the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

Speaking this afternoon, Mr Martin also said the country was in a "much different position" to where it was last year, due to the number of people vaccinated, as well as a booster campaign getting under way.

"The evidence internationally is that the third dose is quite impactful - more impactful than the second dose, it's being said. Our data from the over-80s already, who've had the booster, is encouraging in that respect.

"But we also have to comply with existing guidance and also individually and collectively reduce socialisation."

The Taoiseach said the Government will consider NPHET's recommendations with regard to working from home, and they will make decisions on that advice early this week.

Consideration will be given to that advice and then a "general stock take" with NPHET and other Cabinet ministers regarding the situation right now and over the coming weeks, he said.

The Taoiseach said there are many positives to reopening society, but he said it is having an impact because the Delta variant is so transmissible and that impacts on hospitals and the health service.

It is the same across Europe and globally, he said.

"We can never rule out having to take measures to reduce that impact."

The Taoiseach said Ireland is in a different position to last year "so the language of lockdowns has to be looked at differently", adding that the booster campaign will continue to expand and will give greater protection.

Mr Martin also said they are looking to expand testing and tracing and in particular antigen testing.

He sad the Minister for Health will be bringing forward proposals in respect of a "wider deployment of antigen testing and making it more affordable" for people.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has recommended extending Covid passes.

Ministers will tomorrow seek more information from public health experts on where Covid certs might be used outside of hospitality.

The possibility has been raised of them being required at gyms, hairdressing salons and barber shops.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said there is "real concern" around the level of Covid and highlighted the pressure that is being placed on hospitals.

Labour leader Alan Kelly called for Covid-19 booster shots to be made available to everyone in the country from early next year, and antigen tests to be made available free-of-charge initially.

Immunologist and TCD Professor of Biochemistry Luke O'Neill has suggested that restrictions may be needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

"Sadly, we are heading in the wrong direction,'' Professor O'Neill told RTÉ News.

However, Prof O'Neill said there is no need for another lockdown because ''that's far too dramatic", adding ''we may wind backwards'' and put restrictions on night clubs and pubs if the numbers hit really high levels.

He called for twice-weekly widespread antigen testing in all homes across the country.

''This could be another weapon used to control this virus and we should have done it sooner,'' he said.

Professor O'Neill said it is crucial to get booster shots into over 60s before Christmas because ''there is going to be more mixing and socialising then''.


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