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Concerns over increases in Covid-19 hospitalisations and admissions to ICU

HSE CEO Paul Reid said last night that there were 90 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 19 in ICU.

A HSE briefing in Dublin.
A HSE briefing in Dublin.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated Sep 22nd 2020, 10:42 AM

THE HSE IS warning about an increase in Covid-19 infections across a number of Irish counties, as well as an increase in admissions to intensive care units (ICU).

HSE CEO Paul Reid said last night that there were 90 people hospitalised with Covid-19 and 19 in ICU, an increase on respective figures of 23 and 8 from four weeks ago.

Reid labelled this increase a “very concerning trend” and called on people to follow public health advice to keep people safe.

The comments from Reid come as health officials have expressed concern about a rise in incidence rates of Covid-19 across a number of counties.

This has led to suggestions that some areas may see the Covid-19 alert level raised from its current Level 2. Only Dublin is currently at Level 3, one step higher than the rest of the country.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) meets on Thursday amid these suggestions. 

Based on the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 over the past two weeks per county population, the 14-day incidence rate, a number of counties are experiencing worrying levels of the virus.

Counties Waterford, Leitrim, Louth, Donegal Offaly, Wicklow, Limerick and Roscommon have each seen the 14-day incidence rates move to above or near 80 in recent days.

In a briefing yesterday in Government Buildings, senior civil servant Liz Canavan said that said these counties have shown “concerning trends”. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the status of Level 3 restrictions in Dublin would be looked at over the coming weeks and that the government hopes to avoid a similar in other areas.  

“So the next three weeks will be crucial in determining whether those restrictions work in stabilizing the numbers and bringing down the growth of cases in Dublin,” he said. 

We’re keeping an eye on the rest of the country, and particularly in terms of Louth, and Donegal and then Waterford, again, urging people to halve their number of social contacts as opposed to the number you would have had last week, and to maintain social distancing, and to do the basics. Because that will help us to avoid having to move to Level 3 in any one of those counties.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Chief Clinical Officer at the HSE Dr Colm Henry said that “the same rules apply” everywhere for how the virus spreads.

“We don’t react to today’s figures, we look at the two-day instance and that’s rising particularly in Waterford, Leitrim, Louth. The pattern is somewhat different but still at worrying, escalating levels of community transmission,” he said.

Unfortunately, although we may want it to change, there’s no evidence that the virus has changed in terms of how it impacts vulnerable groups. So across cities in France, and I was seeing sharp escalations in hospitalisation in Ireland here, we’re seeing that same pattern, urban resurgence. Although some counties like Leitrim we’re seeing increased figures too.

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Asked about some of the counties about which concern has been raised, Henry said there is “no appetite” to lockdown different areas but that action must be taken if it is required.

The figures are going up in those countries, the same rules apply in that there is no cure for this virus. There’s no vaccine immediately, a safe, effective widespread vaccine is not available. In that context, the only way we can prevent uncontrolled transmission, which is the greatest threat to our population, is restricting social contacts, reducing the number of contacts, reducing the number of settings the virus can jump from household to household or from individual to individual. And that’s the same for all places, be it Leitrim or Dublin.

Asked about the increase in the numbers in ICU, Henry said that capacity has increased but that will increase further.

We were low in this country, much lower than we should have been per capita for the population. We’ve increased from that fairly miserable low of 225 beds to a full operating system of 278 beds now. And let me point out, it’s not just beds, it’s not just ventilators it’s a system of care. ICU are trained available nurses trained available doctors, the equipment of ventilators the place.

He added however, that ICU beds cannot be relied up to stop the virus:

“And one of the reasons our outcomes were so good during the first phase of Covid, 79% recovery rate, is because for the large part the treatment was delivered within established intensive care units, unlike other countries. And to reiterate, we are expanding and we plan to expand over the coming years, up to 500. But we can’t rely on ICU as a line of defence against a virus which has the capacity to overcome healthcare systems.”

- With reporting by Christina Finn

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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