Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has warned Cabinet ministers that Ireland could see 700,000 new Covid-19 cases between July and the end of September in a worst-case scenario due to the Delta variant.
NPHET expressed these fears and staggering modelling projections in a 13-page letter to government on Monday night. It said that an additional 2,170 deaths could occur in that period as a result of the new more transmissible strain of Covid-19 takes hold.
NPHET's modelling says an additional 81,000 cases caused by the Delta variant is the best-case scenario over the next three months.
Their grim warning comes as it looks increasingly unlikely indoor hospitality will open as planned on July 5. NPHET has advised against the reopening while government members scramble to appease the hard-hit hospitality sector. They are considering allowing fully vaccinated people to dine indoors, but not those unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
The use of the cardboard vaccination cards that people have been given is being considered along with the use of the EU's vaccine passport app in order to police the rule. Question marks and the logistics of this process are making it extremely likely that the return of indoor dining will be at least delayed, possibly until July 19.
This news comes amid pressure on the government to speed up the vaccine process with many young people unvaccinated and others in older categories only partially vaccinated as they await appointments for their second doses.
Also, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has now recommended to Government that the AstraZeneca and vaccines can be given to 18 to 40-year-olds. This is seen as a major boost to the rollout of the vaccine.
Both the AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) jabs were only recommended for over-50s due to incidences of rare blood clotting being linked to the vaccines in younger age groups, particularly in younger women.
Ireland is due to receive more doses of AstraZeneca in the coming weeks. Pharmacists had reported last week that take-up of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) in their outlets had been slow having been allowed for Over 50s who had not received another vaccine.
Government are now likely to speed up the rollout of vaccines to younger people in a bid to stave off the worst-case scenario painted by NPHET in light of the Delta variant. Currently, 35-39-year-olds can apply for a vaccine through the HSE portal. People under the age of 35 have not yet been given the opportunity to apply.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin is expected to address the country on Tuesday in light of the new NPHET advice, giving certainty on the reopening plans for hospitality and other sectors as well as the vaccine rollout.
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