Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the current rise in Covid numbers would have pushed Ireland into a full lockdown, had it not been for the rate of vaccination in the country.

Mr Martin also urged the public and hospitality sectors to embrace compliance when it came to the checking of vaccination certificates, which, he said, was a very basic requirement.

Speaking in Brussels the Taoiseach said: "I am concerned about the increase in numbers as they have risen significantly in the last two weeks. We had numbers yesterday of 2,300. Those are very high numbers that prior to the vaccination era would have necessitated a full lockdown.

"I'm primarily worried about those numbers in respect of the impact on human life and health, and that's the bottom line. So, we all have to really collectively behave, because if the virus goes unchecked, it does impede our capacity to go about normal life as we would like to," he told reporters.

Asked about comments by the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that private security firms could have a role to play in compliance in the hospitality sector, Mr Martin said many stakeholders had a role to play, including the gardaí and environmental health officers.

He said: "Fundamentally operators need to engage, to make sure there is compliance, as well as the public. That's ultimately how you get the highest critical mass level of compliance that we require here," he said.

Mr Martin said Ireland was in a better position than many European countries because of a higher level of vaccination which, he said, was helping to prevent severe illness and death.

He said he did not want to focus on one sector or sub-sector of the hospitality sector.

"Covid has made it very difficult in hospitality and live entertainment and in tourism, and aviation more generally. But the bottom line is this: to avoid any new restrictions coming in, to avoid going back, will demand vigilance on behalf of the people generally, all of us.

"And therefore, when we go to establishments, we should at least as a minimum insist that the basic standards have been applied and the consumer power can be very strong in that regard."

Mr Martin said the booster campaign would be very important as we entered the winter months, especially for older age groups.

He said NPHET had advised government to cautiously proceed with the reopening of the hospitality sector, with as wide protective measures as one could put in place.

"The basis of that advice was, they didn't see the situation improving between now and the end of November, and therefore, they felt that on balance one was better to reopen but endeavor then to focus on personal behavior, everybody, if you like, upping their game somewhat, and that collectively if we all do that, we will have a positive impact on the figures," he said.

The Taoiseach urged sectors not to be "looking at the sector next door and saying I want a bit of that".

He said the hospitality industry had many sub-sectors, and that one policy might not fit all subsectors.

"Let's not pretend that it doesn't [have subsectors]. It has overlapping issues in terms of late-night bars, there'll be nightclubs, and so forth. And then you have the vast majority of pubs."

He added that, what prevailed in one smaller sub sector might not prevail in the entire sector. "There's a legitimate issue there," he said.


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'Things have slipped' - CMO

The Chief Medical Officer has urged people to get back to the basics of social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing saying "things have slipped" in recent weeks amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Dr Tony Holohan said that Covid-19 is going to become endemic and will causes challenges in terms of surges of infections.

"That's what society will be like, as we move forward, and we deal with the fact that Covid as a disease isn't something that isn't going to be eliminated.

"It is going to be endemic, it is going to cause challenges for us in terms of surges of infection from time to time, that are going to have to be responded to in particular by having strong and effective public health services."

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Philip Boucher-Hayes, the CMO said that "things have slipped" in recent weeks, and while there is a substantial level of protection in the population through vaccination, this is not enough.

He said no one wants to back to using "crude" measures to force people to socialise less, but people should be mindful of their own risks, particularly those who are not vaccinated.

Asked about what Christmas this year will be like, Dr Holohan said each individual must make their own risk assessment about social gatherings, particularly where there may be others who are not vaccinated or have underlying conditions.

He said the vaccine, while offering substantial protection, is not a silver bullet and urged anyone with
symptoms to stay at home.


He also said he is confident with the way NPHET has approached Covid testing to date, including the use of antigen testing.

He said they had wanted to avoid the use of a "green light test" where people would use an antigen test to check if they were symptom free before engaging in certain activities.

He said the concern was that it was used as a green light test to make something seem safe that would not necessarily be considered safe during the pandemic.

He also warned against people who are symptomatic using antigen tests instead of PCR tests and an issue of concernt is where people are using antigen tests when they or their children are symptomatic to determine whether they have Covid-19.

He said parents are then sending children into school or they themselves engaging with others when the antigen tests return negative.

"That is a really concerning practice as we are potentially missing Covid," he said

He also said they are potentially missing the risk of RSV that is currently in circulation and the flu.

Dr Holohan also said there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine wanes in younger age groups, which is why it is not yet being rolled out to healthcare staff.

NIAC will keep the question of healthcare staff under continued review and make further guidance, he said.

He added that it does not look like there will a need for boosters to be administered to the population on a widespread basis.

Dr Holohan also said a small number of cases of the AY 4.2 sub-variant have been detected in Ireland, but there is no evidence it is a "vaccine beater" or has a transmission advantage over Delta.

"It is not something about which we are raising alarm or concern at this point in time."

The CMO said that deaths due to Covid-19 in recent times have generally been among older people and while many are of people who are vaccinated, that does not mean that the vaccines are not working.

He said that people who are unvaccinated are "over-represented" among deaths.