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'A very worrying picture': There's been a 25% increase in Covid hospital admissions in a week

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid is due to meet later this evening to discuss the worsening situation.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 15th 2021, 2:10 PM

THE CABINET SUB-COMMITTEE on Covid-19 is set to meet later this evening amid “a grim” situation in hospitals across the country, and growing concern about the rapid spread of Covid-19 across communities.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s News at One, the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor said that there were now 622 people with Covid-19 in hospital, and 117 of that cohort are in ICU. Of those 117 patients, 81 are ventilated.

Yesterday morning, there were 596 Covid-19 patients in hospital and 105 in ICU. 

“Last Monday, there was 498 people [with Covid-19] in hospital. So that’s a 25% increase in one week,” O’Connor said, adding that there had been a 41% increase in ICU admissions.

The suggestion is that if Covid-19 hospitalisations increase to 1,000, and ICU admissions to around 150, then the provision of care would be at risk.

President of the Intensive Care Society, Dr Colman O’Loughlin told RTÉ that it was “about half and half in the ICU, it’s almost equal measure of vaccinated and unvaccinated people who are very vulnerable”.

Some elective procedures have already been cancelled as certain surgeries cannot be performed without hospital beds and ICU beds being available; this is exacerbated by the length of time Covid-19 patients need in hospital.

There are currently 94 vacant beds across the country.

“We have a finite capacity really, we can’t just grow beds overnight,” O’Connor said.

Concerns at Covid surge

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he was “extremely concerned” about rising cases and the impact it was having on admissions to hospital and ICU. 

The daily average of Covid-19 cases for the past five days has now surpassed 4,100 cases. 

HSE CEO Paul Reid has said that the virus is now “prolific” in the community and has asked the public for an ‘immediate reduction’ in risky activities. 

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that the trend in cases was “going the wrong way”. 

He said that the healthcare system was already “overheated” and that if Covid ICU numbers were to get closer to 150 it would be “very difficult” to maintain the level of care currently being provided.  

Anne O’Connor said: “If we look at just the past week, we’ve seen a 32% increase in the numbers of people coming to our emergency department – that’s a massive leap.

“A 23% increase in the numbers being admitted to our hospital, so that tells us that people are sick, that they need to be in hospital. And when we bring that together with Covid-19 numbers, it’s a very worrying picture for us.”

The picture overall is one of people who are very sick, people who need a lot of care, people who are likely to be in hospital for some time. And that then reduces our capacity.

NPHET advice

Last week, the National Public Heather Emergency Team (NPHET) formally recommended to government that it should consider reinstating advice to the public that they should work at home where possible. 

This recommendation is set to be considered by the Cabinet sub-committee this evening ahead of a full Cabinet meeting tomorrow. 

Other measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 are also set to be considered, among them NPHET’s recommendation that the use of Covid certs should be extended to other areas beyond the hospitality industry. 

NPHET did not specify which areas it considers appropriate but CMO Dr Tony Holohan last week expressed his personal backing for Covid certs to be required in areas such as gyms and hairdressers. 

Other moves set to be discussed by senior government ministers include the rollout of rapid antigen testing to primary schools and the potential that antigen tests could be subsidised for the wider population. 

Re-imposition of restrictions

In its letter to government, NPHET said that the reimposition of social and economic restrictions was not currently being recommended but “cannot fully be ruled out”. 

On whether lockdowns could be reimposed, An Taoiseach said yesterday that Ireland was “in a different position to last year” and he emphasised that the booster programme will continue to be expanded. 

Other Cabinet sources have also expressed doubts that a return of Covid restrictions would be necessary or effective. 

Since September, the government has said that businesses can adopt a phased return-to-work policy and Martin referenced last week that this was “at about 50% right now”. 

A change to this policy is among the measures most likely to be made by government, with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and opposition parties urging the government to NPHET’s advice in this regard. 

Speaking this morning, CEO of the DublinTown business group Richard Guiney said that consideration also needed to be given to the “symbiotic relationship” between office workers and the retail and hospitality sectors.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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