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'Prepare ourselves for some quite worrying numbers': Nolan warns of an increase in case and hospital numbers

Professor Nolan said that there are expected to be over 3,000 new cases reported tonight.

Image: Sam Boal

Updated Jan 2nd 2021, 4:02 PM

THE CHAIR OF the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan has said that Ireland could see between 3,000 and 6,000 cases a day at the peak of the third wave.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Nolan said that current growth in virus figures is exponential, with an increase of between 10% and 11% each day.

According to Nolan, this makes the figures more difficult to predict.

“Because it’s exponential growth, and each day is 10% or 11% greater than the preceding day, very small marginal changes in that level of growth give you very different outcomes in a week or 10 days time.”

Nolan said that the current rate of growth for Covid-19 is compatible with a reproduction rate of between 1.8 and 2, surpassing last weeks estimate of between 1.6 and 1.8.

It is expected that there will be over 3,000 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed tonight, including some of the 9,000 case backlog reported yesterday by Nolan.

“We need to prepare ourselves for some really quite worrying numbers in the coming days, both in case numbers and in in the hospital system.”

Currently, there are 581 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, with 56 in ICU. There have been 73 admissions to hospital in the last 24 hours.

According to Nolan, Ireland is currently on the trajectory where health services could be impacted due to the influx of Covid-19 patients.

“We’re at the point now where our health services are under threat unless as and from now we fully enter into the spirit of the measures introduced by government. We need a population-wide response here.”

Reporting delays

Nolan said that there are usually 24-hour delays to allow positive tests to be validated.

Due to the high volume of positive tests in recent days, however, this has led to delays of between 48 and 72 hours, which has created a backlog of around 9,000 cases which are expected to be reported over the coming days.

According to Nolan, he expects that the issues will be resolved within the next week.

“At the pace at which those colleagues are succeeding in doing this, we’d expect that issue to be resolved within five to seven days.”

The HSE has said that the Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting (CIDR) system faced connectivity issues due to the large volume of Covid-19 cases being uploaded to it.

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“We have begun implementing a plan to resolve this issue and aim to have the CIDR system operating at a normal level of performance as soon as possible,” said a spokesperson for the HSE.

“In the meantime there is a discrepancy between the reported COVID-19 daily case numbers and the daily number of positive laboratory results. 

Even taking into account that some laboratory positive results are from second tests and are therefore not new cases, the IT system is still understating the total number of positive tests by a certain amount.

The spokesperson also confirmed that there will not be any limits to the number of cases that can be reported in a single day.

“The maximum capacity of CIDR is not limited to 2000 cases per day and we expect to be reporting well in excess of that figure each day over the coming days.

Alongside this, the spokesperson said that while the contact tracing system is busy, it isn’t experiencing delays due to the issues being experienced with the CIDR system.

According to the spokesperson, due to widespread community transmission of the virus the reporting delay will not impact on advice that is given to the public or the management of the disease from a public health perspective.

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