The Sinn Féin leader has said the lack of capacity in the health service has left the country vulnerable to the impact of Covid-19.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, Mary Lou McDonald said there will be no increase in hospital in-patient beds for the remainder of this year and next year.

She accused the Government of choosing not to properly invest in the health service.

Increased investment must be a central plank in the Government’s response to Covid, Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil.

Responding, the Taoiseach said the Covid virus has had a devastating impact.

Micheál Martin said there has to be a booster vaccinaiton campaign and this will hold back the impact of of the disease.

He said an increase of 900 hospital beds will be provided.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy characterised the Government's latest announcement on easing Covid-19 restrictions as a moment of "confusion, incoherence and chaos".

She told the Dáil that nightclubs and music venues are getting reopening advice "at the last possible moment".

Deputy Murphy argued there has been "almost zero planning" when such premises "should have been given guidance months ago".

She said there had been a "failure to plan" when it came to providing more ICU beds, ventilation standards, and public awareness campaigns that Covid-19 is an airborne transmission.

In reply, the Taoiseach said that anything which the Government had allowed to reopen in recent months had stayed open.

He said he recognised that people find it "frustrating" dealing with Covid-19, but added the virus does not respect weekly decision-making plans by the Government.

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Micheál Martin contended that the Covid-19 numbers "have taken a turn for the worse and we have to respond".

He accepted that there were anomalies in such re-opening plans but argued they do arise in "these scenarios".

He quoted from the recent NPHET letter, in which it stated it "did not believe it tenable that any pause now would result in a further easing of measures in November".

High Covid infection rates a 'disaster'

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that using the term "disaster" is "wrong an inappropriate" in characterising Ireland's response to Covid, saying Bloomberg has rated this country at number one.

MrMartin said the revised reopening announcement was about noting that the trajectory of the disease had "taken a turn for the worse".

Speaking during Order of Business, he said this had happened "over the last two weeks", and said Thursday might work as an opportunity for a debate on the subject.

He was responding to Aontú leader, Peader Toibín who said that Ireland is the most vaccinated EU country, with ongoing and serious Covid restrictions, and so high Covid levels are a "disaster", while antigen testing remains just "an aspiration".

Additional reporting: Paul Cunningham