Another 1,377 Covid cases reported as HSE chief says positivity rate at 8.4%

Ronan Glynn: ‘We are seeing particularly high incidence in people aged 16 to 30 years’

Outdoor dining on Capel Street, Dublin, amid a July heatwave combined with a new  surge in Covid-19 infections. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Outdoor dining on Capel Street, Dublin, amid a July heatwave combined with a new surge in Covid-19 infections. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Another 1,377 cases of Covid-19 have been reported on Saturday by the Department of Health, with 78 persons in hospital and 22 in intensive care.

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, said the country’s Covid-19 incidence rate had now risen to more than 180 per 100,000, with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) reporting five-day average cases of more than 800 per day, the highest the rate has been since mid-February.

“We are seeing particularly high incidence in people aged 16 to 30 years old. And unfortunately, now, over the past few days, we’ve begun to see these high cases translate into increasing numbers in hospital and in our intensive care units,” he said.

Dr Glynn said while more than 60 per cent of the population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, there are still more than 2.5 million adults and children “who are not fully protected or are not adequately protected through vaccination”.

“That’s a really big reservoir of people who are still vulnerable to this disease over the weeks to come,” he added.

Dr Glynn said those who are not vaccinated should be “really careful” about indoor settings and to meet outdoors where possible. If someone is showing any symptoms of Covid-19, they should come forward for a test and isolate, he said.

This morning, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the coronavirus positivity rate is now 8.4 per cent amid “very high levels” of testing, due to an earlier-than-expected surge in infections caused by the Delta variant.

The last time the positivity rate was above 8 per cent was in May 2020.

Mr Reid also said more than 5.1 million vaccines had now been administered to residents of the Republic, with 63 per cent of adults fully vaccinated and 76 per cent partially.

People enjoying the good weather outside restaurants on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
People enjoying the good weather outside restaurants on Capel Street in Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

There are 78 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Saturday, with 22 of those in intensive care (ICU), according to the State’s Covid-19 data hub.

‘Holding well’

Mr Reid said on Saturday morning that hospitalisations and ICU are “holding well”.

Fears are growing Ireland could have up to 2,000 cases of coronavirus a day by the end of the month.

Although a surge on cases here had been anticipated due a combination of restrictions being eased and the impact of the Delta variant, the spike in infections is happening about two weeks sooner than anticipated and moving more quickly.

A further 1,173 infections were reported in the Republic on Friday, with 79 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care.

The State’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said just over 50 per cent of Friday’s cases were in those aged between 19 and 34.

National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet )member Prof Philip Nolan said on Friday the growth in cases among 16- to 18-year-olds was exceptional”, while rates among 19- to 24-year-olds are also moving quickly.

Despite the sharp surge in cases in Ireland and many other countries, including Britain, non-essential international travel is due to resume from Ireland from Monday while 34 states have been removed from the Mandatory Hotel Quarantine list.

There are now 29 countries on the list, with the addition of Cuba – starting from 4am on Tuesday.

However, the sharp rise in cases is causing concern and on Saturday former British health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned prime minister Boris Johnson may be forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions if Covid cases continue rising into the autumn.

‘Roaring’ case growth

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly yesterday warned the Seanad of “roaring” case growth in Ireland. He told The Irish Times that modelling by Nphet shows “a wide range of cases for the end of July, with the maximum being around 2,000 cases a day”.

Another senior Government source said the threshold of 2,000 cases a day could be breached earlier than the end of the month.

A pop-up vaccination clinic at the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship between Newry and Down at Pairc Esler in Co Down. Photograph: Inpho
A pop-up vaccination clinic at the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship between Newry and Down at Pairc Esler in Co Down. Photograph: Inpho

A return to January levels of pressure on healthcare is not countenanced, but political sources are increasingly wary of the impact of infections – especially among the unvaccinated – on hospitals.

If cases hit 2,000 per day, hospital admissions could be in the region of 40 per day, with four to five deaths, Coalition figures believe.

According to the latest HSE epidemiology report, this age cohort makes up 15.3 per cent of new cases over the last two weeks, while the 19 to 24 age group represents nearly a quarter.

A fifth of new cases are among those aged between 25 and 34, while just 2.8 per cent are in people aged 64 and older.

It is understood the latest Nphet modelling, which has incorporated the pace at which Delta is surging as well as the impact of vaccination, has shown an improvement in the outcomes associated with worst-case scenarios, but the best-case scenario is disimproving.

‘Super careful’

Mr Donnelly urged people to act in line with public health advice, emphasising the serious risks, especially for the unvaccinated: “It’s time once again to be super careful.”

A Department of Health source said there is “concern but not alarm” at current trends. Mr Donnelly said that possible death rates for just three months range between 335 and 1,760 people.

A further 1,173 infections were reported in the Republic on Friday, with 79 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care.

In Northern Ireland the Southern Health Trust has suspended visits at hospitals amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases. A further 1,380 people tested positive for coronavirus there on Friday.