Donnelly: ‘No question’ rise in COVID-19 cases came from people socialising before Christmas

The Minister for Health has said he is “nervous” about people taking part in New Year’s Eve celebrations amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations.

Stephen Donnelly said there was “no question” that a lot of the recent increase in cases is coming from socialising in the weeks before Christmas.

The Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the rapid spread of the virus and the sharp rise in hospital admissions.

409 patients are in hospital with coronavirus today, and increase of 49 since yesterday, and a 75% rise on this day last week.

Minister Donnelly told The Hard Shoulder that the message from Government and NPHET was that while there is hope surrounding the roll-out of a vaccine, the situation with coronavirus is “precarious” at the moment.

He further advised that people should limit their contacts and there should be “no kissing lots of people” when the clock hits midnight on New Year’s.

On whether we can expect an announcement on further restrictions tomorrow evening, Minister Donnelly said he “can’t pre-empt” what will be discussed in the Cabinet meeting.

However, he stated: “It’s in response to two things, one is the very serious and ongoing rise in cases and the second which is linked to we’re seeing a very big increase in hospitalisations.

“We will be meeting to consider new measures, it’s an unscheduled Cabinet meeting and we are meeting specifically in the context of the NPHET advice which is to move to full level five and indeed the rise in cases and hospitalisations.

“But suffice to say the purpose of the meeting is to look at the measures and see are there more changes required given the situation we’re facing.

The Minister said the main difference between “full level five” and where we are now is that non-essential retail would shut, the closing of gyms, and restrictions on household visits.

He stated that the Government’s position has been “steadfastly” that schools should remain open during new restrictions and that they should reopen once the Christmas break ends.

“There is no consideration now that we should close the schools,” he added.

Meet Annie Lynch (79) from Dublin who has become the first person in Ireland to be vaccinated against #COVID19. “I feel very privileged to be the first person in Ireland to receive the vaccine,” said Annie who got the vaccine today at @stjamesdublin.#VaccinesWork #CovidVaccine

— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 29, 2020

It comes as 79-year-old Dublin grandmother Annie Lynch became the first person in the Republic to get the coronavirus vaccine today.

Minister Donnelly said it had been “a big day” after “the hardest year in living memory”.

He added: “It’s very much a week of two halves that we’re dealing with a very series situation with cases and the UK variant.

“But on the vaccine front, I was talking to Annie and her granddaughter this morning, and it was wonderful to hear her talk about the fact that she was going to be vaccinated and be able to go home.”

On when everyone in Ireland can be expected to be vaccinated, he said “no country has an end date” on when the vaccination programme will be completed.

He added that depends on the delivery and on “a lot of things that aren’t known yet”.

This includes whether the Moderna vaccine will be approved by the European Medicines Agency on January 6th and when the AstraZeneca jab will be given the green light.

However, also speaking on The Hard Shoulder, the CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said that the mass roll-out of the vaccine against COVID-19 should be completed in Ireland by August.

Main image: The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly pictured yesterday. Credit: Sasko Lazarov/