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Cabinet to meet as number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Irish hospitals hits seven-month high

Stephen Donnelly said ministers will consider current Level 5 restrictions in light of the data.

The latest data comes as the first doses of the vaccine are administered at St James' Hospital today.
The latest data comes as the first doses of the vaccine are administered at St James' Hospital today.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

AN UNSCHEDULED CABINET meeting will take place tomorrow to discuss the “rapid” and “exponential” growth in Covid-19 infections in Ireland and the UK, health minister Stephen Donnelly has said.

It comes as the number of people in Irish hospitals with Covid continued to rise sharply overnight.

As of 8am this morning, 409 people with the virus were in hospitals in the Republic of Ireland, according to updated figures published on the Government’s Covid data hub website.

Yesterday evening, NPHET reported 359 Covid-positive patients in hospitals.

Confirmed cases of the virus in hospitals are now at their highest level since 15 May.

“So just a week ago there were 234 Covid patients in hospitals. As of today, there are 409 so that’s a 75% increase in just one week,” Donnelly said.

Speaking on News at One on RTÉ Radio 1 this afternoon, the minister said that the Government and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are “very concerned” by the growth in case numbers and hospitalizations in recent days.

Asked if public health restrictions could be tightened in the coming days, Donnelly said, Cabinet would “look at the measures that are in place” and “consider restrictions in light of the increase in cases and hospitalisations”.

Government is particularly concerned, he said, by a variant strain of Covid-19 that is prevalent in the UK.

“What we’re watching very closely is what’s happening in the UK because this variant, which appears to be much more contagious than what we’ve been dealing with so far is driving very rapid growth in the UK.

“We’re beginning to see reports in the media about NHS hospitals beginning to become overwhelmed by Covid and Covid patients. Obviously that’s not something we want to see here. So cabinet is meeting tomorrow we’re meeting at 2.30pm,” Donnelly said.

Third wave

Speaking last night, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that more people have now been hospitalised in the current third wave of the pandemic than during the entire second wave of infections in Ireland. 

“We look at many metrics when monitoring the disease severity of Covid-19. Today we are reporting that we have now exceeded the cumulative number of people hospitalised in this third wave than in the second,” he said.

Hospitalisations have increased sharply in the last two days. This is a concerning trend which reflects the sharp increase incidence we saw in the last 10 days. 

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Public assistance

Today, the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being administered at four acute hospitals — St James’ and Beaumont in Dublin as well as Cork and Galway university hospitals.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said public assistance will be needed in the coming weeks as the vaccine is rolled out.

“We are turning a corner in the fight against Covid, but now is not the time to let down our guard,” Ní Sheaghdha said in a statement.

It is extremely important that everyone follows public health advice in the coming weeks. It is clear that the number of Covid cases is increasing, putting our hospitals under pressure. The number of patients on trolleys today is increasing. 

“Nurses, midwives and other health care workers have been battling this virus head-on since March. They are tired, but they continue to be focused on protecting the public.”

She added, “Every person in Ireland needs to consider the direct link between their actions and pressure on our health service. 

“We need this public assistance now as the hope of a vaccination comes to reality.”

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