Coronavirus: 4,962 new cases and seven further deaths reported
Republic passes 100,000 confirmed cases with hospitals under ‘extreme’ pressure
There were 56 seriously ill patients in intensive care units with Covid-19 on Saturday night. FIle photograph: Massimo Percossi/EPA
The number of Covid-19 cases detected in the Republic has surpassed the 100,000 mark after another daily record of infections was set on Sunday.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has reported 4,962 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 101,887 the total number of cases recorded in the Republic since the pandemic began.
A further seven deaths of Covid-19 patients have also been reported by Nphet. This brings to 2,259, the total number of deaths in the pandemic.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan described the “really significant” surge in infections as “unsustainable” for the health service.
The number of patients with the virus in hospital, and in ICU, has doubled in the space of a week, he pointed out.
“This is a critical time. We are seeing a really significant surge in infection, which is leading to a very rapid increase in both hospitalisations and admissions to critical care units.
“This is not only unsustainable for the healthcare system, but also a deeply concerning level of preventable sickness and suffering that we must work together to address as quickly as possible.”
He urged people to “remember that behind each hospital statistic and ICU figure is a real person like you, with a family who cares about them, and a team of healthcare workers dedicated to protecting their lives. We must be as dedicated as we all were in the spring in our commitment to following the public health advice”.
Of the new cases, 1,260 cases were in Dublin, 652 in Limerick, 350 in Cork, 321 in Louth and 238 in Meath, with 2,141 spread across all remaining counties.
On Sunday, 685 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of which 62 were in ICU. There have been 96 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
The national incidence of the disease now stands at 469.8 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days. Monaghan, Louth, Limerick and Donegal have the highest county incidences; Wicklow the lowest.
“Act as though you are infectious,” Dr Holohan advised. “Stay at home. Work from home starting from tomorrow, and if you are an employer, ask your employees to work at home. What we all do at a collective level today will have a direct impact on the level of infection and hospitalisations in the weeks to come.
“Your safe actions now will protect our hospitals and those who work so hard in them. Simply put: when you stay at home, you protect the frontline healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly to keep us all safe throughout this pandemic. Hold firm and remember them.”
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) warned hospitals were now under “extreme” pressure.
The union said its members were concerned by a “major increase in the number of patients presenting, along with high levels of staff out on Covid leave or for self-isolation”.
IMMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said “the progress we made on keeping case numbers down seems to be completely undone”.
“Covid is creating more patients while also depleting staffing. It’s a vicious combination. Staff are far more experienced than they were at the start of this pandemic, but the sheer numbers are difficult to cope with.”
The union pointed to Cork University Hospital where management have confirmed more than 100 nurses are unable to work.
The intensive care unit at the hospital was currently “extremely busy”, according to a statement from the hospital’s management. To control the situation, all non-essential surgeries have been cancelled for this coming week. Only emergency surgeries and critical elective cancer surgeries will proceed, while outpatient services will also be “greatly reduced” in the coming week, the statement says.
The hospital has requested that people contact their GP, the regional community medical service South Doc, the Mercy Urgent Care Centre, or local injury units in Bantry or Mallow.
Pressure on hospitals must be eased if staff are to be able to cater to the needs of patients with and without coronavirus, as well as running a mass vaccination scheme, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.
The INMO called for additional capacity to be sourced from the private sector and for childcare needs of frontline workers to be taken into account by the government.
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry on Sunday told RTÉ’s This Week programme the virus was “out of control” in the community with a surge in cases in the past week. He said the HSE was “very concerned” at the trends of infection that were being seen.
“Our fear is that this will take a long time to turn around,” he said.
The hospital system could be put “under considerable stress by the end of the month” without complete compliance with Level 5 restrictions, he said.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said the Government had given “clear directions” to the Department of Health and HSE that all non-essential medical electives or outpatient services be put on hold to ensure enough beds remain available for people with the virus. He added that about 1,500 beds, which became available over the Christmas period, should be kept free.
“What we’ve said to the hospitals and the health system is to keep them free, don’t fill them up again with procedures that could be put back for a later date because we could see we were facing into a real difficulty with this surge in numbers,” Mr Ryan told Newstalk’s On the Record with Gavan Reilly show on Sunday morning.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “more important than ever that each and every one of us does what is being asked of us”. He tweeted on Sunday: “Stay home and strictly limit social contacts. We must do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable and those on the frontline.”