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Covid-19: 18,904 new confirmed cases, 1,011 in hospital and 92 in ICU

The latest figures were confirmed by the Department of Health today.

Image: Sam Boal

HEALTH OFFICIALS HAVE reported an additional 18,904 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland today.

As of 8am this morning, 1,011 people were in hospital with the virus, 92 of whom were receiving treatment in intensive care.

Yesterday, there were 20,909 cases of Covid-19 reported, with 1,055 people in hospital and 92 in ICU.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) also reported 83 deaths in the last week due to Covid-19, bringing Ireland’s total to 6,035. Last week, there were 40 deaths notified.

The Government has recently announced changes to close contacts, with close contacts who have received a booster jab and have no symptoms of Covid not being required to restrict their movements.

These new changes are set to come into effect from tomorrow.

All close contacts will now be advised to take an antigen test before entering crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated areas, as well as being asked to wear an appropriate face mask in these areas.

While they no longer have to restrict their movements, they are asked to “limit contact” with people outside their household and to avoid contact with anyone who may be at high risk from Covid-19.

Current isolation periods for people who test positive and who have symptoms are also set to be dropped to seven days across the board.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that following these new rules, there is an emphasis on higher grade masks, rather than cloth masks.

“It is important to note that the latest public health advice around self-isolation and restriction of movement places an increased emphasis on the use by cases and close contacts of higher-grade face masks, as opposed to cloth masks,” said Holohan.

“Other protective measures including strict limiting of social contacts are also advised for the full 10 days following a confirmed COVID-19 infection or close contact.

“These combined measures are intended to offset any increase in risk of transmission that may result from the reduction and or removal of the requirement to self-isolate or restrict movements.”

Medical grade or FFP2 masks are now advised for anyone:

  • Over 13 years old who is a confirmed case, close contact or who has Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Over 60s and vulnerable people of all ages in indoor or crowded outdoor places.
  • Anyone visiting a healthcare setting or visiting people who are vulnerable to Covid-19.

The latest figures come in the wake of warnings from NPHET that the PCR testing system has been overwhelmed by the volume of the disease in the country, and that the true volume of cases is much higher than what is officially reported.

Hospitalisation figures

It comes as Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19, but who were admitted for other reasons is around 30%.

As recently as 30 December, Holohan said in a statement that “less than 5%” of cases in hospital or intensive care have ‘incidental’ Covid. By this definition, he meant asymptomatic and non-infectious disease.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing yesterday, Holohan acknowledged that, using a broader definition, the figure of people in hospital who have tested positive but who are not being treated for Covid primarily could be higher.

At a recent NPHET meeting, Holohan said that the advisory team identified that there was a need to get a “much more detailed understanding” of the available hospitalisation data.

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“As a result, the HSE have been, if I could use the phrase, kicking the tyres a bit more on that data,” he said. 

“And yes, the HSE is of the view now that the true figure is probably much closer to a 30% figure than a 5% figure based on the work they’ve been doing over the last number of days since that NPHET meeting.”

The CMO said the HSE research into the hospitalisations arose “because we had the concern that from the data we were getting from the HSE … doesn’t really accord with what we might be hearing from other countries”. 

“And for all the reasons I said, we decided we should be kicking the tyres more thoroughly on that data.” 

Holohan noted that the research into hospitalisations has not yet concluded.

“Maybe a point to make, and that shouldn’t be lost, is that if you have a patient who is in for a completely separate purpose but happened to have Covid, they still represent a significant risk to the staff and other patients, in particular, in the hospital environment,” added Holohan.

Changes to guidelines around who should seek a PCR test were announced two weeks ago in a bid to ease the pressure on the system, including advice for symptomatic people in younger age groups to instead take regular antigen tests and only seek a PCR test if they receive a positive antigen result first.

As a result of the guidance changes and the ongoing strain on the PCR system, the daily case number figures released each evening underestimate of the level of Covid-19 in Ireland compared to earlier periods in the pandemic when the daily figures were much lower.

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