Covid hospital numbers increase by two-thirds over past two weeks

Health officials say hospital system is under ‘considerable pressure’ as two sub-lineages gain dominance

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital has increased by more than two-thirds over the past fortnight, official figures show.

There were 767 people with the virus in hospital on Monday morning, up from 459 on June 14th, with health chiefs warning that the hospital system is under “considerable pressure”.

As of 11:30am on Monday, there were 35 people with the virus in ICU, up from 31 on Sunday and 29 on Saturday.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), the recent surge in cases of the virus nationally is due to the increased prevalence of two new Covid-19 variants.

The two sublineages of Covid-19, known as BA. 4 and BA. 5, are replacing the previously dominant Omicron variant.

Between June 12th and June 18th, some 77 per cent of PCR-confirmed cases were identified as likely being BA. 4 and BA. 5.

“This is likely due to their ability to evade immune protection caused by prior infection and/or vaccination, particularly if this immunity has waned over time,” the centre said.

“There is currently no indication of any change in infection severity compared to previous Omicron lineages.”

There was no indication of an increase in ICU admissions associated with the current upsurge, the HPSC said.

Patients in ICU with Covid-19 did increase slightly from a low for 2022 of 18 patients on May 29th, but have been stable with 20-28 patients a day since June 6th, it added.

There is also no indicator of increased mortality; there can be a time-lag in the reporting of deaths.

However, as in previous waves, if Covid-19 case numbers increase substantially, some level of increased hospital and ICU admissions is likely to follow.

In his most recently published epidemiological update – June 17th – chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the acute hospital system remained “under considerable pressure”.

“If the recent rising trend in hospitalised cases continues, we are likely to see increased pressure on the hospital system over the coming weeks. This will further reduce hospital capacity to admit patients for scheduled and unscheduled care,” the report states.

Meanwhile, according to the HPSC, there were 81 Covid-19 outbreaks notified in the week ending June 18th.

Of those, some 25 outbreaks were associated with acute hospitals, 11 outbreaks were in nursing homes, five were community hospital or long-stay units, 35 were in residential institutions, three outbreaks were associated with other healthcare services notified and other outbreaks were associated with schools.

Tadgh Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, said while they were seeing an increase in the number of outbreaks, “it is nothing like what we’ve seen before”.

“For the most part, people are not as sick. Nursing homes are coping, but we’re still being very vigilant. If there’s a rapid rise in community transmission – which there has been – it is inevitable that it’s going to impact on nursing homes as well,” he said.

“We’re still very much in that vigilance space in the nursing home sector. We’re asking people to be uber cautious and not to come if they have any symptoms.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times