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Nearly 40,000 Covid cases recorded in three days as HSE boss issues hospitals warning

Hospital cases indicate Ireland is “entering something” rather than “exiting”, HSE boss Paul Reid said today.

LAST UPDATE | 28 Mar 2022

THE RISE IN Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations suggest Ireland is “entering” rather than “exiting” a new stage of the pandemic, according to the head of the HSE.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that the healthcare system expects to be dealing with a high caseload throughout April as the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital steadily climbs.

It comes as the Department of Health today announced that 39,561 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the last three days.

Health officials said 5,263 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded today. In addition 6,466 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal yesterday.

A total of 6,940 cases were confirmed by PCR testing yesterday and 5,432 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal the previous day.

On Saturday, a total of 7,754 PCR-confirmed cases were recorded and 7,706 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal on Friday. 

As of 8am today, 1,624 patients are hospitalised with the coronavirus disease, of whom 54 are in intensive care units. 

Experts say the BA2 variant that is now spreading is about 30% more contagious, but not more dangerous, than the BA1 Omicron variant.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One this afternoon, Reid said that it “does feel like, from our perspective in the hospital system, more like we’re entering something than exiting something in terms of the impacts, in terms of the scale of transmission in the community, but particularly in terms of the numbers of hospitalizations we’re seeing”.

“We don’t have any indications or any modelling to say to us that this is on a downward trend. In fact, all our experience is it’s increasing,” Reid said.

“We would hope, and there is evidence across other European countries, that it does peak after a few weeks, which would bring us into April, but ultimately from a hospital perspective, we will be dealing with this well throughout April, regardless if we do see a downturn.” 

The total number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital is the highest it has been since January 2021.

While only around half are in hospital because of Covid-19, the large presence of the virus in hospitals has knock-on effects on care for other patients.

“It’s not just the people who are admitted for Covid; it is the total number of Covid patients that we have to treat, which has a very disproportionate impact because we have to create wards… we have to create isolation [for people with Covid-19],” Reid explained.

“It has a disproportionate impact on our hospital system overall,” he said.

Reid said the HSE “will look at” whether procedures could be re-examined but that “ultimately we do have to protect people who are in hospital”.

“If people are in hospital, they’re vulnerable. They’re usually being treated for some illness [and] we know that Covid can complicate that illness.”

Hospital cases 28 March Covid-19 cases in hospitals on 28 March Covid-19 Data Hub Covid-19 Data Hub

Around 720,000 people who previously were not administered a booster vaccine because they had, or recently had, the virus are now becoming eligible to receive it.

“There’s over around 720,000 people becoming eligible now for their booster who would have had Covid in a three-month period. We strongly urge them to come forward now. Our vaccination clinics are open,” Reid said.

“When we look at the hospitalisations at the moment, 35% of those who are positive for Covid at the moment in hospital haven’t heard had the vaccine, and that that’s key. 50% of people in ICU haven’t had boosters. Vaccines work,” he said.

“Finally, if people are symptomatic, it’s important people do isolate because we are seeing high transmission levels in the community.”

Earlier today, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, UCD Assistant Professor of Virology Dr Gerald Barry attributed the rise in cases to the lifting of restrictions and the high transmissibility of the BA2 variant.

“We’ve completely opened up society so there’s lots and lots of opportunities for this virus to spread,” Dr Barry said.

“Alongside that, we have a version of this virus that, to put it simply, we’ve never ever seen in our lifetimes a virus as infectious as this as a respiratory form that spreads so easily between people.”

“Unfortunately, we’re still at a phase where this virus is learning how to live with us and it’s changing constantly to try and perfect how it moves through us,” Dr Barry said.

He said that we need to “respond” to waves of the virus “rather than doing what we’ve done in this wave, which is effectively nothing.”

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