'Reasons for real hope' - Holohan

The Chief Medical Officer has said there "are reasons for real hope" that Ireland "can confidently move to a point" where an easing of restrictions can be recommended to Government.

However, Dr Tony Holohan said: "We are not yet where we need to be."

Speaking at a Department of Health briefing, he said NPHET is "a little concerned" about data of recent days.

He said this data will "be observed more closely in the coming days before we can be satisfied that we have arrived at a point where we can advise Government on any easing of restrictions".

Steady progress in indicators of disease

The Chair of the NPHET Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said there has been a "small spike in cases" ten days after the relaxation of measures on 12 of April.

However, Prof Philip Nolan said that there is a "broadly positive" outlook of where we are in terms of the pandemic. He said that all indicators of the disease showed steady progress, up until 21 April.

Prof Nolan also said that the 14-day incidence was 113 per 100,000 yesterday, "the lowest it has been for some considerable period of time".

However, he said the population remains "vulnerable" over the coming weeks because they are not protected by vaccination.

Prof Nolan said any increase in close contacts or mixing "represents a high risk".

More visits for 'majority' of nursing homes

The Department of Health briefing heard that from 4 May, nursing home residents in centres where most residents are fully vaccinated can have four visits with two people per week.

Prof Martin Cormican, Professor of Bacteriology at NUI Galway, said that this will apply to the "majority" of nursing homes.

Huge relief in hospitals due to vaccine programme, says Reid

The Chief Executive of the HSE said that they are seeing a "huge relief" in hospitals as a result of the coronavirus vaccination programme. Paul Reid said that it is working "across the board".

He said the decision to give AstraZeneca only to older age groups "certainly constrained us", and if the same decision was made in relation to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, that would "further constrain us very significantly".

He said they do not want to be in a situation where they have 600,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses in storage, but they do have capacity.

Mr Reid also said that the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are key in terms of Covid-19 vaccine delivery for the second quarter.

Rise in emergency department admissions

The HSE's Chief Operating Officer has said that there has been a 9.3% increase in emergency department admissions compared to last week and is similar to 2019 levels.

Anne O’Connor said the steady climb over the last ten weeks "is of concern".

Speaking at a weekly HSE briefing, she said that the high demand for unscheduled care impacts on ability of some hospitals to deliver scheduled care.

"Our challenge is to do all of this in the context of a safe environment, in a Covid environment, and so these numbers are of concern to us," she said.

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