Coronavirus: 24 deaths reported in the State in past week

Ireland on track for full easing of Covid restrictions in October, Nphet says

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he did not think it would be necessary to reimpose a lockdown in the future but this could never be absolutely ruled out. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said he did not think it would be necessary to reimpose a lockdown in the future but this could never be absolutely ruled out. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

A further 24 deaths of people with Covid-19 have been reported in the State in the past seven days.

On Wednesday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said a further 1,185 cases of Covid-19 had been notified. As of 8am on Wednesday, 292 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 65 were in intensive care units.

In a statement on Wednesday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said since April 1st, “approximately four out of every five people admitted to ICU and approximately three out of every four deaths with Covid-19 were not fully vaccinated. It remains vital that those who have not yet received a Covid-19 vaccine do so at the earliest opportunity.”

Earlier, Nphet indicated the State was on track for the full easing of Covid-19 restrictions on October 22nd.

The easing of measures is a “short number of weeks away”, Dr Holohan told the Oireachtas health committee.

Dr Holohan said he did not think it would be necessary to re-impose a lockdown in the future but this could never be absolutely ruled out.

Infections have peaks and case numbers should decline “from here on in”, Nphet official Prof Philip Nolan told TDs.

He said modelling suggests trends are following the optimistic scenario set out by Nphet earlier in the summer. However, there is the potential for a greater wave of disease if people relax their adherence to public health measures or if children turn out to be a greater driver for disease transmission than had been assumed.

“We don’t need to test every case of mild illness to inform our understanding of the disease,” he told TDs.

In the News podcast / Sept 15th / Covid and unvaxxed children

Internationally, there is nothing emerging in relation to new variants to cause particular concern, Dr Holohan added.

About 12,000 schoolchildren are currently self-isolating, with an additional 1,200 cases a day, officials confirmed.

Demand for testing among children of primary school age has tripled in the past two weeks, leading to a 50 per cent increase in case detections. One per cent of the primary school cohort is being tested every day.

Dr Holohan said Nphet plans to make changes to the rules around testing and self-isolation but first it wants to monitor the impact of the resumption of the school year on cases.

“We want to change those arrangements,” he said. “Not just for school children, but in terms of testing, contact tracing and the wider public health management for society as a whole.”

Cases among 19 to 24 year-olds have collapsed over the last month as the number of young people getting the vaccine has grown, Prof Nolan said.

As a result, officials are not expecting a significant wave of cases as students return to third level.

Nursing homes

Almost 900 nursing home residents have tested positive for Covid-19 since the end of June, officials said.

Out of 896 nursing home cases, 31 were hospitalised and 31 died - a mortality rate of 3.5 per cent, Dr Holohan said.

Over the period, there have been 51 outbreaks in nursing homes and seven in community hospitals, Dr Holohan told the committee. Last week alone, there were four new nursing home outbreaks with 24 cases.

While nursing home residents have died this summer as a result of infection with the virus, mortality levels are much lower than earlier in the pandemic, he said. Virtually all nursing home residents are fully vaccinated.

Cases were occurring because of the force of infection in the wider community at present. In addition, vaccines are not 100 per cent effective. Dr Holohan said some nursing homes were experiencing challenges in maintaining high staffing levels.

In schools there were 40 new outbreaks last week, involving 191 linked cases. Three outbreaks apiece were in post-primary schools and special education, and 34 in primary schools.

Conditions this winter may be more conducive to the spread of flu, with increased vulnerability possible as no flu occurred last year, Dr Holohan warned, though trends from the recent winter in the southern hemisphere were reassuring.

Just over 88 per cent of the population over 16 years is fully vaccinated, just short of Nphet’s target of 90 per cent.