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1,501 new cases as leaders told to plan for both virus and flu this winter

A further 1,501 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic this evening.

Health officials today warned the Government of the need to plan to put "protections" in place for the winter period, the Taoiseach has said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan gave a presentation to politicians at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on Friday.

The winter could bring fresh challenges as the country deals with the normal flu season, alongside the Covid pandemic and the Delta variant of the virus, Micheál Martin said after the meeting.

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“We have to be cautious. We have to be careful. We have reopened society very significantly. We’ve got to protect that. We will keep a watching brief on this over August,” he said.

Mr Martin also appealed to people to be patient as the vaccine programme continues.

“Is it too much to ask that we wait another number of weeks to get into a really strong protective situation vis-a-vis our society with a very high numbers of vaccinations?” he said.

Restriction breaching

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Mr Martin was asked about the fact that the Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, has told priests in his diocese that they can proceed with communions and confirmations in the weeks to come.

“I would say to the church authorities that the Government’s only motivation here, in terms of the regulations we have brought in, in respect of gatherings and congregations, is to protect people, is to protect people’s health.

“I don’t approve of any unilateral breaching of regulations.

“We are always open as a Government to engaging with sectors and engaging with different representative groups. We do appreciate that this is very difficult.”

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It comes as a further 1,101 cases of the virus were reported on Friday in Northern Ireland, with three more deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19.

On Friday morning, there were 232 Covid-19 positive patients in hospital in the region, with 32 in intensive care.

In the Republic, there were 169 patients hospitalised with the disease on Friday morning, with 23 in intensive care.

The chief executive of the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned that while the general outlook is positive, hospitals are still under pressure from a rising number of hospital admissions linked to Covid infections.

“We’re not out of the woods in terms of the trend of hospitalisations,” Paul Reid told RTÉ radio.

He added that, regardless of whether a patient is admitted to hospital due to a Covid-19 infection, or tests positive for the virus after being admitted for a different reason, each case has a significant impact on the health service.

It comes as the first walk-in vaccination centres opened to the public on Friday morning, with more set to deliver jabs over the bank holiday weekend to anyone aged 16 and over who has yet to receive a first dose.

More than 5.7 million vaccines have been administered, with 86 per cent of people partially vaccinated and 71 per cent of people now fully vaccinated.

Donegal, Louth and Galway are among the counties with the highest 14-day incidence rate.

—Additional reporting by Press Association.

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