In a week that saw the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine in Britain, Northern Ireland and the US, it was no surprise that vaccines were raised at this evening's briefing at the Department of Health.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will begin the week after its expected approval by the European Medicines Agency.

Today, there were 264 new Covid-19 cases reported by the Department of Health, as well as two further virus-related deaths. It brings the overall death toll to 2,126.

Here are five things we learned from this evening's briefing: 


Vaccines won't be end to Covid-19 pandemic

The Chief Executive of the Health Products Regulatory Authority said that Covid-19 vaccines will not bring an end to the pandemic.

Dr Lorraine Nolan said that while vaccines are a "hugely positive development", it is one additional measure in the continued fight against the coronavirus.

"Other public health recommendations including hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be vital to tackling this pandemic," she said. 


'No lowering of the bar' over vaccines

Dr Nolan stressed that even though the regulatory process around the vaccines were accelerated, there was no compromise in the scrutiny of them.

"There will be no lowering of the bar on this," she said.

She said that many factors have come together to increase the pace of the development of Covid-19 vaccines.

Dr Nolan said concerns that people have about the speed at which the vaccine has been developed is understandable.

She said there may be the impressions that because of this standards have been dropped, but that is "absolutely not the case".


Slight increase in five-day average of coronavirus

The Chief Medical Officer told the briefing that there has been a slight increase in the five-day average of the virus.

Dr Tony Holohan said that despite the drop in the number of new virus cases since yesterday, there is still a change in the pattern of the virus and that we are in an "increasing situation".

"We think we are beginning to see a change in the pattern of transmission of the virus," he said. 

Dr Holohan said that the basic message to people was to plan ahead for the Christmas period, and limit social interactions as much as they can now. 


'Different counties have different challenges'

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer said that there is not any one factor to explain the rise in Covid-19 cases in some counties. 

Dr Ronan Glynn said told the briefing that "different counties have different challenges" and they are still seeing outbreaks in workplaces, as well as across a range of different settings.

He said that the one factor that is common to all counties is people’s individual behaviour.


Santa is good to go on Christmas Eve

The children of Ireland should not worry if Santa will be safe as he takes off on his very important travels around the world on Christmas Eve. 

Dr Tony Holohan assured that because of Covid-19, Santa is planning ahead to make sure that this Christmas is as safe as possible.

"From our point of view, we know that he'll take all the necessary measures and it will be safe for Santa to come and visit the houses of the children who are good and those are doing their homework and are helping around the house and not fighting with their brothers and sisters," he said.


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