4,004 new cases, 481 people in hospital

The Department of Health has been notified of 4,004 new cases of Covid-19.
There are 481 people in hospital, down 30 since yesterday, of whom 111 people are in ICU, up one.
It comes as people aged 40 to 49 years could be in line to receive booster vaccines before Christmas.
Indications from Government today suggest it is more than likely that boosters will begin to be made available to this cohort by the end of next week.
This move would mean that people in this age group could get a booster if it is at least five months since they got a second vaccine dose.
They should receive an appointment to attend a vaccination centre but there is also the option of going to a walk-in clinic or a pharmacy where the boosters are administered.
Government is keen to emphasise that booster vaccines offer the best protection against the new variant.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that any change to the booster rollout would only take place on foot of the latest advice from NIAC.
Mr Martin said that he is awaiting guidance in terms of the “widening of eligibility for the booster vaccine”.
Speaking in Cork, the Taoiseach said the Government is anxious to open up the vaccine to as many people as it possibly can, within the clinical guidance, because “we do now know that in terms of Omicrom that the booster vaccine will give very, very significant protection”.
Politically the mood is being described as one of “high alert” as public health experts across Europe continue to assess the potential impact of Omicron.
However, any prospect of schools shutting early for the Christmas holidays is being discounted.
Senior political sources insisted today that there is “not a chance” of this happening.
The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive are currently looking at booster scheduling options in light of the latest advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
The updated roll-out plan will be published next week.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin (Photo: RollingNews.ie)

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of the HSE has said they do expect to have administered around 1.5 million Covid-19 vaccine booster doses by Christmas, as indicated by Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Paul Reid said it “all depends on take-up” but that based on what they are seeing, they do expect to be at around the 1.5 million mark.
He also said they “haven’t publically communicated out” in terms of the 40 to 49 age group.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, he said if there is any immediate change to that, they will communicate it through the minister.
“But right now we haven’t done that yet… our target group for 50s, we started that well in advance of when we planned so we’ll continuously monitor that and if there is a change and if there’s a formal announcement it will come through the minister.”
Mr Reid said the HSE has extended the number of walk-in centres and it is trying to get the balance between walk-ins and appointments.
He said walk-in clinics are “enhanced options” but appointments are still the primary focus.
He said they have boosted resources at clinics over the last few weeks and will continue to do so.
Earlier, Mr Reid said he expects hospitals to be under great pressure this month and next because of coronavirus.
In a message posted on Twitter this morning, Mr Reid reminded people of the benefits of getting the booster vaccine.
Walk-in vaccination centres are open around the country this weekend for healthcare workers and people aged 50 and over.
In Cork, several hundred people queued outside the City Hall walk-in vaccine centre this morning, with reports the queue was moving quickly.

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People queue at Cork City Hall this morning for a booster vaccine

🧵Here are today’s walk-in #COVIDVaccine clinics. We’re operating some walk-in clinics for dose 1 and dose 2, and booster vaccines for healthcare workers and people aged over 50. #ForUsAll⤵️ Keep an eye for updates on queueing times throughout the day. pic.twitter.com/gQjfL4UBkP
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 11, 2021
Dr Shane Corr, a GP based in Carrickmacross, has said he cannot understand why the HSE is still persisting with age cohorts for booster vaccines.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor programme, Dr Corr said he thinks people should be able to receive a booster whenever they become eligible after having their original vaccine.
He said it would be “far better” to allow people to make their own appointments.
“People want to get vaccinated,” Dr Corr said. “Pictures of people being turned away from the vaccination centre at UCD… I just thought was extraordinary.
“And at the same time, the Taoiseach was telling the Dáil people weren’t turning up for appointments. It’s nonsensical.”

Long queue around the block for walk-in #Covid19 vaccination clinic at #Corks City Hall. Approx one hour wait currently (10.29am) but moving quickly. @RTEnews pic.twitter.com/PnjrR6L0W1
— JennïeØSullivân (@OSullivanJennie) December 11, 2021
With exactly two weeks to Christmas Day, political leaders and health officials have expressed concern about the trajectory of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
From next Friday until early in the New Year, an average of 45,000 arriving or departing passengers are expected each day in Dublin Airport.
Many of the Christmas travellers will be arriving from Britain. Yesterday, health officials in the UK, said daily Covid-19 cases had reached their highest level in almost a year.
They also said that the Omicron variant could become the dominant strain in the UK by mid-December.
On Thursday night, the Government advised travellers from Britain to take antigen tests every day for five days starting on the day of arrival.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that the country was in a very uncertain and unstable position because of the high incidence of Covid-19 driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
He said this was a matter of very significant concern as health officials waited for more evidence relating to the Omicron variant and the impact it may have to emerge.
In Northern Ireland, there have been three further deaths related to Covid-19 and an additional 1,446 positive case, the Department of Health said.
There are currently 326 people in hospital with the disease, with 30 of those in intensive care.
A total of 3,195,368 vaccines have been administered to date.
Additional reporting: Jennie O’Sullivan

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