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Taoiseach under pressure to move country to Level 2 Covid-19 restrictions for Christmas

It's as 362 new cases were confirmed last evening, up to 11 of them in Carlow & Kilkenny

The Taoiseach has come under pressure from members of his own party to move the country to Level 2 Covid-19 restrictions for Christmas.

Yesterday, Micheál Martin said the aim was Level 3 from 1st December to allow businesses to re-open.

However, at a meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party last night, there was a ‘general consensus’ to go further and allow domestic travel and more visitors to homes.

The National Public Health Emergency Team meet later to discuss the current progress with Level 5.

Professor of Public Health at the University of Bristol, Gabriel Scally, says it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves when reopening next month.

It’s as two deaths were recorded in the Republic last evening with 362 new cases of the virus, seven of them in Kilkenny with four or less in Carlow.

The majority of the rest are in Dublin followed by Donegal and Limerick.

The 14-day incidence rate is now at 145 per 100,000 population with Kilkenny’s at 133 while Carlow’s has dipped again to 114.2.

282 people were in Irish hospitals with the virus last night, while there were 39 patients in intensive care units.

Clusters …

The number of new outbreaks of Covid-19 in private homes increased by over a third last week.

443 were recorded, a sharp increase on 320 the week before.

There were 24 new outbreaks linked to schools, down slightly from the previous week.

A total of 49 nursing homes are now dealing with coronavirus outbreaks, with three new clusters last week.

Travel …

A drive-thru Covid-19 testing facility will open at Cork and Shannon airports today.

The facilities are being rolled out to support the new EU traffic light system for international travel which came into effect on Sunday.

They’ll be located in the airport’s carparks. In Cork; at the express red overflow car park and in Shannon’s bus coach park 2.

Passengers or anyone who wants a test can book online at Covidcheck.ie; with costs varying depending on the type of test opted for.

The drive-thru is designed for minimal contact, with those being tested only having to roll down their window briefly to be swabbed.

Turnaround times vary from a few hours to a few days, again depending on the type of test chosen.

Those waiting on results can track their test online just like a package arriving in the post.

If the test is positive RocDoc – who operate the facilities – will call and will notify the HSE for contact tracing purposes.

Antibody Test …

A rapid Covid-19 antibody test has been found to be far less accurate than first thought.

It uses blood from a finger-prick, and can give results within 20 minutes, however scientists believe it can produce false positives.

Of people known to have had Covid-19, it has an accuracy of 92.5%, but this drops to 84.7 when it’s not known.

Vaccine …

The first meeting has taken place of a new government taskforce which will look at how a potential Covid 19 vaccine could be rolled out.

It follows Pfizer’s announcement that its jab is more than 90 per cent effective at preventing people getting the virus.

If it’s granted approval, Ireland is set to get around 2 million doses as part of a European Commission contract with the company.

Northern Ireland …

Northern Ireland ministers have until midnight to agree another set of Covid-19 restrictions as the current four-week circuit-breaker’s set to run out.

Stormont couldn’t reach consensus for the third day in a row last night.

A proposal from the Alliance Party which would see a week extension was rejected, as was an idea from the DUP to allow some parts of the hospitality sector to reopen.

791 new cases of Covid-19 were detected in Northern Ireland yesterday, as well as eight new deaths.

Stormont now has until midnight to agree a way forward for northern Ireland, with Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill saying yesterday more people will die if the restrictions aren’t extended.

Elsewhere …

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has imposed a new round of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, as infection rates and hospitalisations soar.

The state was the epicentre of the U.S. outbreak in its early stages.

Bars, restaurants and gyms in New York will have to shut down at 10 p.m. and the number of people who can attend private parties is capped at ten.

The new measures, which take effect tomorrow, come a day after California and several states across the Midwest tightened restrictions as well.