The Dail Business Committee has heard that antigen tests will be made available to Leinster House staff for free from next week, while TDs and Senators will be asked to pay for their own tests. ROLLING NEWS.IE/ SAM BOAL

Covid 'getting worse before it gets better'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the Covid situation in Ireland is “getting worse before it gets better”.

Increased socialisation and the waning of the effectiveness of the vaccine have been blamed for a worrying rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

Mr Martin was speaking to reporters before a Cabinet meeting, where the government was set to consider reintroducing some restrictions.

“I think the situation is very concerning and I think there is an obligation on all of us to reduce socialisation and to take care of everybody to get the numbers down,” he said. 

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“The overall objective is to prevent people from getting ill, sick, going into hospitals and ICUs. We have to limit the increase that we are experiencing at the moment in terms of hospitalisations and ICUs, in terms of people getting sick from Covid-19 through a combination of the reopening of society and the increase of socialisation and the waning of the vaccines.

“The booster vaccine will now be extended to the over-fifties but obviously that’s going to take time in terms of the scheduling after the interval of five months from receiving the last dose but nonetheless that the higher cohort of the population will be getting the booster vaccine, that would be important. But behaviour and in terms of the advice that we received from NPHET in respect of the working from home and other measures will be considered by the Cabinet.”

Mr Martin said that after a presentation from the Health Service Executive on Monday evening that quick action is needed “in respect of easing that pressure on the acute hospital system over the next number of weeks”.

He said the case numbers were high and that would inevitably lead to hospitalisation.

“We’ve got to make decisions today but also I think collectively as a society we’ve got to look out for each other and just be very aware that the situation is getting worse before it gets better.”

In Northern Ireland the Executive will meet on Wednesday to discuss the introduction of Covid passports for bars, restaurants and nightclubs, similar to those in operation in the Republic. Hospitals in Northern Ireland have been overwhelmed in recent weeks and at the weekend Craigavon Area Hospital diverted ambulances from its Emergency Department because it was under “extreme pressure”.

Health Minister Robin Swann said Ministers would consider which settings people may be required to show Covid-19 certificates to gain entry into.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “The executive will meet again on Wednesday with a focus on the huge pressures in the health service. We will continue to be guided by the health advice to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the public and avoid another lockdown scenario.”