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Health officials warn of strain on hospitals but Covid-19 admissions remain low

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Health officials have warned of mounting strain on hospitals as coronavirus infections increase, although the absolute number of admissions remains below previous surges of the disease.

Prof Philip Nolan, chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) epidemiological modelling group, reported rising intensive care admissions but said the rise in hospital and ICU admissions was “far less” than “if we didn’t have so much of the population protected through vaccination”.

Dr Nolan said the expected pattern of infection in coming weeks was “really quite uncertain”. The background of exponential virus growth earlier in July “may or may not be stabilising” but the increase in hospital and intensive care admissions tracked the rising rate of infection.

While there was one intensive care admission every two days toward the end of June, Dr Nolan said the ICU admission rate in the past week was approaching three per day.

There were 152 people in hospital yesterday. The figure contrasts 1,949 during the January peak. There were 333 inpatients at the start of November 2020 and 862 in April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.

But admissions are again rising fast.

“We’re seeing on average 26 per day admitted to hospital in the last seven days and 30 today. You can see that that’s very significantly up, pretty much double what it was two weeks ago,” Dr Nolan told reporters at the Department of Health.


In a sign of pressure on the system, nurses in Limerick’s main hospital complained yesterday that overcrowding there is worsening despite the provision of more than 100 additional beds.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said called on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to intervene directly to “look under the bonnet” and see why additional beds at University Hospital Limerick had not made a substantial impact.

More trolleys had been placed on wards and corridors in University Hospital Limerick in recent days as overcrowding continued, the union said.

Uneven pressure

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the uneven spread of coronavirus infections throughout the State meant some hospitals might be under more pressure than suggested by overall admissions data.

“It can happen that individual hospitals can be under quite a degree of pressure when the overall situation in the country might not suggest that’s the case. So we do know that maybe some hospitals in the west have already had a challenge with much more infections based on the most recent wave than other hospitals.”

He acknowledged reported pressure on hospitals in Limerick and in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, and cited pressure also on hospitals in Co Mayo.

“We have seen quite a wide variation in case numbers in individual hospitals,” Dr Holohan said. “We have 150 give or take hospitalisations. That’s not spread evenly spread across the 30 or 40 hospitals that might be admitting patients with this infection.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said hospitals would be under pressure if there were no coronavirus admissions.

“The point that obviously the absolute numbers are much less than previous waves is very welcome,” he said.

“The reality is that if we had no cases of Covid in hospital tomorrow morning our hospitals would be under extreme pressure. Unfortunately that’s what we’re dealing with, both pre-Covid and now but particularly as a result of Covid in the last number of months

“Our healthcare workers are exhausted frankly. They’re facing into enormous backlogs in elective care, non-Covid care, non-Covid health plans, social care: both in acute settings and in community,” he confirmed.

“So while the absolute numbers are less than previously we’re very conscious that any increase in those number … has potential to be very significant to the health service that we’re trying to get back up to full function.”

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What changes about life in Italy in October 2021?

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Some of these changes are confirmed, others still speculative, but each of the following may have an impact on your life in Italy soon. 

Here’s what we can expect in the coming weeks.

Oct 1st: Electricity and gas prices rise

The Italian government has stepped in to limit a steep rise in energy prices in the next quarter, after a 40 percent increase was predicted.

While this means bills won’t rise quite so sharply for Italian businesses and families, energy costs are still set to rise.

Electricity prices are expected to increase by up to 20 percent for those who do not fall into the lowest income brackets, according to Italian media reports, while a smaller rise is expected for gas bills.

READ ALSO: Italy to spend €3bn on keeping household energy bills down as prices soar across Europe

The precise figures won’t be known until the tariff for the upcoming quarter is published by Italy’s energy regulatory authority Arera, by the end of September.

The government’s measures will keep additional costs at zero for those least well-off, including households with an income under 8,265 euros, families with at least 4 dependent children with an income of less than 20,000 euros, those who receive a state pension or unemployment benefit, and people who are seriously ill, Sky TG24 reports.

The government funds will also cut the ‘general charge’ from gas bills for all throughout the last quarter of 2021, and on electricity for families and some small businesses.

Oct 1st: Italy-UK travel rule changes

People planning to travel to the UK from Italy or elsewhere in Europe from this month should note some changes to the entry rules.

From October 1st, due to a Brexit-related rule change the vast majority of EU citizens can no longer travel into the UK using an ID card; only passports are acceptable. Full details HERE.

As for Covid-related restrictions, vaccinated travellers from Europe will no longer have to take pre-departure tests when heading to England from Monday, October 4th.

Photo: Andreas SOLARO/AFP

New Covid restrictions – and a vaccine mandate?

In the coming days, the Italian government is expected to release details of its next decree updating Covid-related rules and restrictions within the country. 

Travel rules will not be included in this update – the next review of restrictions on most non-EU countries will come on October 25th (see below).

It looks likely that the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas and theatres will increase after the government’s scientific advisory panel gave the all-clear to plans on Wednesday,

Stadiums will be able to sell tickets up to 75% of their full capacity, compared to 50% at the moment, while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to go up to 80%, according to news agency Ansa.

There will be no capacity restrictions for museums, although they will be obliged to make sure social distancing is respected.

All venues will only be allowed to admit customers with the green pass.

The Italian government is also considering whether to make vaccinations mandatory for more groups if it decides the rate of vaccination in the country is too low, and says it will make a decision by the beginning of October.

Vaccination coverage is one of the key factors the health ministry will take into account when deciding on any upcoming changes to the coronavirus restrictions.

Italy is tantalisingly close to reaching the government’s stated target of having 80 percent of the population fully immunised by September 30th – with some regions doing better than others.

Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Oct 15th: Green pass requirement at all workplaces

This is the most important change to be aware of this month if you work in Italy.

From October 15th, the next extension of Italy’s green pass scheme will require all employees across the public and private sectors to show that they are vaccinated, recovered or have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test uding the country’s green pass health certificate.

Unvaccinated workers without medical exemptions will need to take regular tests at their own expense unless their workplace decides to provide them for free.

Employees who fail to produce a pass face penalties of between €600 and €1,500, and salaries can be frozen from the first day that they arrive at work without the certificate. Employers are subject to fines of between €400 and €1,000 for failing to uphold the rules.

Find more details about how the rules will work in practice here.

Oct 15th. Some people are allowed to switch their heating on

You read that right. Italy has restrictions on when (and how much) you’re allowed to heat your home, and the first places to be allowed to crank up the thermostat are northern and mountainous parts of the country, starting from mid-October.

Italy is divided into several categories depending on when authorities think it’s appropriate to turn the heating on in each area.

Those in the balmier coastal areas in places like Sicily and Calabria are last to be permitted to flick the switch on December 1st. Find out when you can turn your heating on here.

Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP

Oct 15th: New national airline ITA takes off

This is also the date that Italy’s new flag carrier ITA, replacing long-struggling Alitalia, will begin operating and selling tickets.

Alitalia will cease operating on October 14th and the company has confirmed that customers with bookings after that date can rebook or get a refund.

Oct 25th: Italy to review rules on travel from the US and Canada

Towards the end of the month, we’ll be keeping an eye on possible changes to the Covid-related rules on travel from ‘D-list’ countries including the US and Canada, with Italy’s current set of rules for arrivals from these countries in force until October 25th.

Oct 31st: Don’t forget to change your clocks

At 3am on Sunday, October 31st, the clocks will go back by one hour marking the end of summer time.



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IRFU must shoulder some blame for state of women’s rugby in Ireland

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Watching the distressed female Irish players trying to console each other after Saturday’s heartbreaking, last-ditch defeat by Scotland in Parma which wrenched World Cup qualification aspirations from their grasp made for a very uncomfortable, almost invasive, watch. It was a relief when the RTÉ cameras panned back to the studio.

Watching Sene Naoupu embracing a tearful Ciara Griffin, it’s a wonder that Naoupu had kept her own emotions under control. Representing Ireland at a World Cup in her native New Zealand would have been such a fitting finale to her stellar career.

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Q&A: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?

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For many Spaniards, landing a stable, paper-pushing civil servant position is the dream.

They know it’s not going to be exciting or to make them rich but they see funcionario work as ‘a job for life’ in a country where the unemployment level is notoriously high and much of the job market is based on temporary summer positions in tourism.

They also like the fact that civil servant jobs pay a decent salary compared with the national average and often work fewer hours too.

Funcionario positions in Public Administration, Social Security and Defense were paid an average of €29,580 gross per year in 2020.

This is higher than the national average gross salary of €24,395 per year, according to stats released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), although that’s not to say some civil servants get paid considerably less than the above mentioned salary.  

So, if jobs in the civil service are so popular then how can you get one as a foreigner?

Can foreigners in Spain get civil service jobs?

The main answer is yes, you can get a job in the civil service in Spain as a foreigner, however, there are a few requirements.

Those eligible for civil servant jobs in Spain include EU nationals and those who are married to Spanish or EU nationals. You must currently be married and not divorced.

Children of EU nationals who are eligible to work in Spain (over 16 years old) and who are under 21 can also apply, as can those who are over 21 but who are financially dependent on their parents.

Third-country nationals with work and residence permits in Spain may also apply for civil service jobs.

READ ALSO: How can non-EU nationals bring family members to live in Spain?

Does this apply to all jobs in the civil service?  

No, the only jobs that foreigners can’t apply for and that you must have Spanish nationality for are those which “directly or indirectly imply participation in the exercise of public power or in the safeguarding of the general interests of the State and Public Administrations” according to the Spanish government.

What qualifications do I need?  

While some civil service jobs in Spain require a university degree, there are several that don’t.

Whatever types of qualifications you have, however, will have to go through the homologación (recognition) process so that it’s validated and accepted in Spain. Keep in mind that this can take months, and for non-EU qualification holders even longer.

You may also be required to show other proof and certificates.

According to the Spanish government: “This requirement will not apply to applicants who have obtained recognition of their professional qualification in the field of regulated professions, under the provisions of Community law”.

It also goes without saying that you will need a high level of Spanish to get a job as a civil servant and you may need certificates to prove this too. If you’re trying to get a job in Catalonia for example, you may also be required to know Catalan, as well as Spanish. 

What are oposiciones?

Oposiciones are the entrance exams you’ll need to sit to become a civil servant in Spain. Each type of position will have its own requirements, some easier and some harder, which involve a series of exams to test your abilities and suitability.

Some positions may require practical exams, while others such as for the police force will require a physical test. 

READ ALSO – Not just English teaching: The jobs you can do in Spain without speaking Spanish

Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Is there anything that will prevent me from getting a civil servant job in Spain?

Yes, foreigners should not have received disciplinary action or been fired from similar roles in public service in their own countries.

Also, those who are applying for jobs where they will be in contact with children may have to show a police check from their home country to prove that their record is clean.

READ ALSO: What are the types of work contracts in Spain and which one is the best?

What are the advantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • A decent salary
  • You have the right to take holiday days in addition to personal days off
  • Your social security is automatically deducted, giving you healthcare and pension rights
  • It’s a stable job that you are less likely to be made redundant from
  • You have the possibility of transferring to different departments

READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work

What are the disadvantages of being a civil servant in Spain?

  • It’s a big investment in time and effort to get a job as a civil servant
  • The need for qualifications, extra tests, and exams
  • The extensive number of requirements and paperwork that needs to be filled out
  • Complicated systems as well as old-fashioned and bureaucratic work models
  • Monotonous work, where you’re unlikely to face new challenges
  • Little to no opportunities for remote employment



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