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New restrictions not on cards despite 'significant increase' in hospital cases, Donnelly says

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital has more than doubled in a fortnight.

HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE monitoring Ireland’s Covid-19 situation “very closely” as the number of patients with the virus in hospital more than doubled in a fortnight.

However, no movement has been made in the Department of Health towards implementing restrictions, according to Stephen Donnelly.

The minister for health said that he “can’t speculate about the autumn at this point” but that officials are “working through” what kind of plan should be in place in the event of a spike in cases.

That could involve looking at another round of booster vaccines or approving more vaccines for use, Donnelly said.

But asked about restrictions, he said: “I have no advice nor have there been any questions raised in the Department of Health at this point around additional restrictions.” 

Speaking to reporters today about hospital cases, Donnelly said that “what we’re seeing is a very significant increase in a very short period of time”.

“What concerns me is that when you look at previous patterns of hospitalisation, they spiked very, very quickly,” he said.

“Thankfully, because of the vaccine program and because so many people participated, even in the last wave, the Omicron wave, the numbers in intensive care and the numbers who became really very sick and the mortality levels stayed low.

“However, we still had an awful lot of Covid patients in the hospitals and that leads to cancellation of elective care, which has huge knock-on effects for non-Covid patients.

“If we are looking at another substantial increase in the hospitalisations, that of course has an impact on our efforts on waiting lists and on elective care and as we all know there’s a lot of patients need care very quickly.”

Two weeks ago, the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital fell to its lowest of 2022 at 167 after slowly declining since the end of March.

However, the figure has been rising again since, reaching 355 today.

Cases in intensive care units have ranged between 18 and 32 over the last month, with 22 Covid-19 patients in ICU today.

Donnelly said that only around one-third of people who are eligible for a second booster vaccine – over-65s and people who are immunocompromised – have received it.

Some of the low uptake is attributable to people who had Covid-19 and must wait before receiving the booster, the minister said, but he advised others who can take it to come forward.

“There are undoubtedly people who are eligible for a second booster who have yet to take it,” Donnelly said.

“When we look at the profile of the people who are in hospital, many of them are over 65 and unfortunately, quite a number of them have not had the second booster,” he said.

“Undoubtedly, the single most important message now is for people to get vaccinated; to get the first booster if that’s what’s next for you [and] really importantly, if you are eligible for the second booster, it’s so important that we get it to protect yourself but also to protect the hospital system for all of the men, women, children who are waiting for scheduled care.”

However, he said we are “now seeing spikes in some other EU member states” and that a rise in cases “may happen”.

On Wednesday, there were 905 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed by PCR tests and 1,542 positive antigen tests registered.

30,449 PCR tests have been conducted in the last seven days, with a positivity rate of 22%.

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