New group set to replace NPHET "imminent", says Leo Varadkar
Over 21,000 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Wednesday.
A new group designed to replace the National Public Health and Emergency Team (NPHET) will be in place in the immediate future, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Speaking on Wednesday (23 March), Varadkar said the currently unnamed team is "imminent" in terms of its arrival.
Also on Wednesday; the Department of Health confirmed a total of 21,098 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
Of those, 7,038 were identified via a PCR test, while 14,060 came from positive antigen tests registered through the Health Service Executive portal.
As of 8am on Tuesday, 1,395 patients are hospitalised with the virus.
Of those, 55 are in ICU.
“I don't have a date but I understand it’s imminent," said Tánaiste Varadkar upon being asked on precisely when the NPHET replacement group will emerge.
Regarding any significant changes to public health advice, Varadkar referred to Tony Holohan, who he noted is still "in situ" as far as the Chief Medical Officer role is concerned.
The Tánaiste reiterated his stance on not reintroducing restrictions, having previously moved to rule out a return to mandatory mask-wearing.
"I absolutely acknowledge that our hospitals are under enormous pressure at the moment, not just because of Covid," he said.
"There's also the Bank Holiday effect, and there's also deferred demand.
"And the message from Government on masks is very much in line with public health advice – that it's advised on public transport, and also advised in crowded indoor spaces.
"But we don't propose to make it a criminal offence again not to do so," the Tánaiste concluded.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the Government to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing in crowded and indoor settings.
World Health Organisation Europe director Hans Kluge has criticised several European countries for lifting their respective Covid restrictions too "brutally", including Ireland.
Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, Donegal-based GP Denis McCauley urged the public to respond appropriately to the new wave of Covid, particularly in the wake of a rise in hospitalisations.
"I think there is sort of a, 'Speak to the hand' type thing – 'Problem? What problem?' – I think there is a problem. And we need to recognise it.
"The tone is, 'There's no problem here, what's the problem? Covid again? Give our heads peace.' – I think there is a problem, I think we need to do something.
"We need to change things, subtly initially, and hopefully if that works then we won't need to think about dreadful things like mandatory issues after that."
McCauley urged caution amongst the general public, and called on "people of influence" to reinforce public health advice and remind people that Covid "hasn't gone away yet" and to be "sensible and practical" for the foreseeable future.
"Put your mask in your back pocket again," he suggested.
"Have it with you. If you're going to an indoor area wear your mask again. If you're in a large populated area outside and there's a lot of people around – wear your mask."
Elsewhere on the programme, Dr David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, posited that a slower rollback on restrictions in Ireland may have prevented the current spike.
"I think authorities are concluding that they can live with this kind of situation," he added.
"They'll be watching it very carefully but perhaps this is the way that things are going to be in the future. There will be quite a lot of Covid being transmitted; not so many people in hospital because of the high levels of vaccination."
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