Written answers

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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1037. To ask the Minister for Health if evidence from other jurisdictions has been examined in cases in which outdoor hospitality has remained open throughout tight restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21994/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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NPHET has consistently advised that outdoor settings are considerably safer than indoor ones based on national and international evidence. This was a key informing principle in the development of the 5 level framework of public health measures last September and in the Government decision last month to commence the easing of some measures over April which are focused specifically on outdoor activities.

It is important to note, however, that while outdoors is safer, it is not risk-free. It is important to continue to practice social distancing and other safe behaviours when meeting people outdoors and masks should be worn in crowded outdoor spaces. 

HIQA undertook an evidence review on higher-risk environments and activities for the NPHET in November 2020, drawing on national and international evidence. The Review found that while there is consistent evidence that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is substantially lower, there is still evidence of transmission occurring in outdoor environments. This is particularly the case when there are large gatherings, where social distancing or the use of face coverings are neglected, and where there is dense congregation and mixing among groups. There are also risks linked to what might precede and follow outdoor gatherings including associated events and activities and shared travel to or from events or activities. The review is available at:

https://www.hiqa.ie/reports-and-publications/health-technology-assessment/activities-or-settings-associated-higher-risk 

The public health advice relating to Covid-19 is kept under continuing review by the NPHET. HIQA, at the request of the NPHET, is undertaking a regular review of the public health measures and strategies that are in place internationally to limit the spread of COVID-19. These reviews are available online at:

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In its most recent review which was considered by NPHET on 22 April, hospitality remains restricted to take-away and delivery services in the majority of countries examined.

The situation will be subject to ongoing review taking account of the evolving epidemiological situation, the impact of the reopening of priority services, and available evidence in relation to vaccine deployment, uptake and effectiveness. The NPHET and the Government will consider the position again later this week and it is anticipated that a roadmap for the further easing of measures over the coming months will be agreed.

Photo of Christopher O'SullivanChristopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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1038. To ask the Minister for Health if consideration will be given to moving factory workers providing an essential product from cohort 9 to cohort 6 given they are based in crowded environments and supplying essential retail; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22008/21]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

On 23 February, I announced an update to Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy. In comprising the initial Vaccine Allocation Strategy, the NIAC listed several conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease and death. In the intervening period, national and international evidence has become available which has enabled a more detailed analysis of underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing severe disease or death. The NIAC has now been able to more comprehensively identify those medical conditions and to distinguish between those which place a person at very high or high risk of severe disease if they contract the virus. Medical conditions and the magnitude of the risk they pose will continue to be monitored and periodically reviewed. 

On 30 March, the Government approved a further update to the COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Strategy. Based on clinical, scientific and ethical frameworks produced by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and my Department, following the vaccination of those most at risk, future groups will be vaccinated by age, in cohorts of 10 years (i.e., 64-55; 54-45, etc.).

The move to an age-based model better supports the programme objectives by:

-protecting those at highest risk of severe disease first, which benefits everyone most;

- facilitating planning and execution of the programme across the entire country;

- improving transparency and fairness. 

Further details are available here:

Vaccination of Group 4 (people aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death) began in March. Vaccine registration for Group 5 (people aged 65-69 whose underlying condition puts them at a high risk of severe disease and death) began on 15 April.

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