Covid: People should meet outdoors where possible to limit risk, interim CMO says

Prof Breda Smyth reminds there is a significant but falling number of virus cases in hospital

People should meet up outdoors “where possible” and wear masks on public transport to limit the spread of Covid-19, according to the latest advice from the State’s interim chief medical officer.

Prof Breda Smyth said there is no indication for changing any of the existing public health advice, in the light of the “recently observed deterioration” in the profile of the virus.

In an update to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, she highlighted the importance of vaccinations and boosters in providing protection, along with the communication of existing advice so that people can “optimally protect themselves from severe health outcomes associated with Covid-19″.

Four out of 10 people in hospital with Covid last month were unvaccinated, according to the CMO’s report for July 29th.

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In late July, 41 per cent of people hospitalised with Covid-19 had not completed a vaccinated course, 20 per cent had completed a course and 39 per cent had received a booster.

Second booster

Among patients in hospital and aged over 80, only 22 per cent had received a second booster. This figure was 15 per cent for those in hospital with Covid-19 and aged 65-79 years.

In intensive care, 79 per cent of people with Covid-19 were fully vaccinated.

Overall, Prof Smyth says there are high levels of infection and a significant number of cases receiving hospital care, although this figure is falling.

There continues to be a significant number of hospital-acquired virus infections, with 229 cases in the week to July 17th, compared to 312 the week before.

Omicron variant

By July 26th, 84 Covid-19 deaths had been reported that month, compared to 99 in June, 122 in May and 347 in April.

BA.5 remains the dominant sublineage of the Omicron variant, according to the report, accounting for 52 per cent of genomically sequenced samples.

The number of PCR tests fell 55 per cent in the week to July 29th, while the number of antigen tests reported was down 39 per cent.

However, wastewater testing points to an increasing viral load.

PCR testing volumes and test positivity have also continued to decrease, but Prof Smyth says a significant proportion of detected infections continue to be identified in older age groups.

There were 382 patients in hospitals with Covid-19 on Monday, two up on the previous day, according to the Department of Health. This included 32 patients in intensive care, up one.

Galway University Hospitals had 47 Covid-19 patients on Sunday, the highest of any hospital, according to the HSE. Beaumont had 38 and Letterkenny 27.

Covid-19 patients occupied 30 out of 263 adult ICU beds, and three out of 22 paediatric ICU beds.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times