Sam Boal

No Covid-19 discussion at Cabinet as health minister says public health advice has not changed

Public health officials today announced 14,549 new Covid-19 infections.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 29th 2022, 7:35 PM

THERE WAS NO Covid-19 discussion at Cabinet today despite some healthcare professionals stating that the health service is under “huge pressure”. 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said today said that while the number of infections is amounting to hundreds of thousands a week, the advice he has received is not to consider bringing in any new public health measures. 

Public health officials today announced 14,549 new Covid-19 infections

A Government spokesperson said this evening that ministers did not discuss Covid-19 as the public health advice has not changed.

While the case numbers are high, he noted that the majority of those in hospital are incidental cases who tested positive prior to their arrival in hospital. 

Donnelly said the health advice is to re-emphasise to people to use face masks at the “appropriate times”, and to stay at home if they are symptomatic until 48 hours after symptoms have passed.

“There still is an important role for masks even though the legal requirements have been taken away,” he said.

The minister said at a meeting of Fianna Fáil members last night that the only way to suppress the disease at its current levels would be to go for a full lockdown, adding that “there is no justification for it”.

HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry said today that pressure is mounting on the health service due to 6,000 healthcare staff being out sick.

Henry said hospitals are seeing an ongoing rise in cases, with around 1,600 people in hospital with Covid.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) today said that hospital overcrowding in Cork City is “out of control”. 76 patients are without a bed in Cork city, with 53 patients on trolleys in Cork University Hospital and 23 patients on trolleys in Mercy University Hospital. 

“The amount of patients for whom there are no beds in both acute hospitals in Cork City today is out of control,” INMO industrial relations officer Liam Conway said. 

“Our members are exhausted and completely burnt out and are looking for a solution from the South/Southwest Hospital Group and Government,” Conway said.

“It’s not sustainable and the fact is we will see dedicated staff, who have worked through the pandemic, walking out of their jobs if this situation isn’t taken seriously. It’s absolutely crucial that the HSE works with us now to prevent that happening.” 

Alongside the pressure on hospitals, the HSE today confirmed the Emergency Ambulance Services of the Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service are experiencing a large volume of calls and requests for emergency ambulances at this time. 

People are being warned that they may experience delays in getting an ambulance if they are calling 112/999 for a non-urgent or non-life threatening emergency due to calls from other patients whose emergency care needs have been triaged at a higher level. 

The emergency ambulance services operate a priority dispatch system to ensure that paramedics and ambulances are dispatched to the most seriously ill and injured patients first in order of their priority. 

All callers are advised to ring back if the patient’s condition changes or deteriorates. 

Colm Henry said today he agrees with the reintroduction of mask wearing and urged the public to continue wearing face coverings on public transport and in “congested areas”.

He said: “We are dealing with a new variant, the BA.2 variant, which is much more transmissible.

“Fortunately, due to the vaccination programme and the booster programme, we see less severe illnesses associated with this variant. But as it has some new mutations, it means that people who were previously infected are liable and likely to get reinfected.

“The harm associated with Covid is much diminished because of the vaccination programme – it reduces serious illness. While there is a small rise in patients with Covid in intensive care, it’s not nearly as marked as January 2021.

“The health service is under huge pressure. We see disruption to services and widespread absences.”

Henry said the spike is “causing considerable disruption to unscheduled care”, with some operations cancelled and community services affected.

Henry told RTE’s Morning Ireland that Covid figures will continue to grow before starting to plateau – followed by a slow decline.

Includes reporting by Christina Finn and Press Assoication

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