Republic of Ireland news

Taoiseach calls for ‘all hands on deck' to tackle Covid-19 variants

Facilities set up for coronavirus surge testing at Ballymartin GAC in Kilkeel, Co Down, on Monday June 7 after several suspected cases of the Delta variant were identified in the area. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association
James Ward, PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for a collective effort from political leaders across Ireland and Britain to tackle new strains of the coronavirus.

Mr Martin said “all hands on deck” are needed to deal with what he called the “dark cloud on the horizon” of the Delta variant of Covid-19, first identified in India.

Outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster said the Delta variant now makes up around 20 to 25% of new cases in Northern Ireland, raising concerns that case numbers and hospital admissions could rise in the weeks ahead.

The issue was high on the agenda of a meeting of the British Irish Council in Co Fermanagh today.

Mr Martin said: “What was interesting in the discussions this morning, what my ears were particularly alert to was on the various communications around the Delta variant, for example.

“And some jurisdictions saying to us, we’re not quite out of the woods yet.”

He added: “I think it brought home the necessity for us to work very closely together, in terms of monitoring the evolution of Covid, and in particular, the latest cloud on the horizon, it being the Delta variant.

“I think it’s through close collaboration that we can work, but we need to have all hands on deck, in terms of dealing with what has been a very serious issue for the people we represent.”

Mr Martin said the threats posed by the variant underpinned the need to keep the institutions of Northern Ireland up and running.

Ms Foster said that while the pandemic situation in the north is very positive at the moment, there are concerns that the variant will undermine that progress.

She said: “We are at yet another point where we are concerned. We’re concerned about the Delta variant.

“We heard yesterday from our chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser.

“There are concerns about that, the fact that our positive cases now are showing that 20 to 25% of our new positive cases are now of the Delta variant.

“We know in other jurisdictions that we’ve listened to today that the Delta variant is now the main source of Covid-19. We’re a little behind that.

“So whilst we have good news at the moment, in terms of not having anybody in intensive care, and that our hospital admissions haven’t started to rise, we are concerned that that will be the case in a number of weeks’ time.”

Ms Foster said a balance has to be struck between reopening society and the economy, and keeping the variant at bay.

“We have to continue to open up, we have to continue to relax the restrictions, but we have to do it in a way that will protect our citizens. That’s a very big challenge” she said.

“And my advice on that is to listen to our excellent experts to take their advice, but to also obviously, try to move forward and open up the economy and society.”

There are now eight adult hospitals and three children’s hospitals which have no Covid-19 patients whatsoever, HSE boss Paul Reid revealed today.

They include St James’ Hospital in Dublin, Naas General Hospital, the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore and hospitals in Sligo, Galway and Waterford.

The three children’s hospitals at Temple St, Crumlin and Tallaght are also free of Covid-19 patients.

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