Coronavirus: 43 more people with Covid-19 die while numbers in hospital ‘persistent’

‘Case hasn’t arisen yet to give us a reasonable belief that now is the time to lift restrictions’

The Chief Medical Officer of the HSE, Tony Holohan has again dampened hopes that the lockdown regulations will come to an end in the short term. Video: RTÉ

 

Another 43 people have died with Covid-19 in the State, bringing the total number of deaths here to 1,232, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

The Department of Health this evening confirmed another 359 cases, bringing the total diagnosed cases to 20,612.Of the confirmed cases 58 per cent are female and 42 per cent are male with a median age of 49 years, 13 per cent were hospitalised. Some 13 per cent, of 2,706 have been hospitalised, with 360 admitted to ICU.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the number of people in hospitals and intensive care units is “persistent… and we’d like to see that dropping.”

Senior health officials have said the pressure being exerted on the hospital system by Covid-19 is greater than it was when emergency measures were introduced, meaning the healthcare system would “find it very difficult to manage” if a second surge of infection occurred, senior health officials have said.

Prof Philip Nolan, who is chair of the Department of Health’s Covid-19 modelling group, on Thursday night emphasised that the number of Covid-19 patients on hospital wards and in intensive care is “significantly higher” than where it was at the end of March.

While these numbers are dropping rather than increasing, senior public health officials remain concerned by the load on the hospital system. “We remain optimistic that those numbers will come down further, but it’s quite clear that they are very significantly elevated compared to where we started and it is still a huge workload on our healthcare system and a very significant risk at present.”

In the week before measures were introduced, the number of people in hospital grew from 170 to 440, while those in intensive care jumped from 50 to 80. On Wednesday evening, there were 1,065 confirmed or suspected cases in Irish hospitals, and a further 120 confirmed or suspected cases in critical care beds.

Despite the positive trends in recent data, this pressure, combined with persistent infection in the community, contributes to the case against the relaxation of measures, Dr Holohan said.

“We’re seeing around 100-200 cases per day from the population in general. Those are close to the figures we were seeing back in March when we introduced these measures,” Dr Holohan said. “Notwithstanding the progress we have made, we think the case hasn’t arisen yet to give us a reasonable belief that now is the time to lift restrictions,” he said.

“On every measure we are sharing with you, we have seen improvement, and that’s all giving us encouragement, but we need to get down to a lower baseline.”

Dr Holohan also indicated that preparations are being made to further broaden the criteria for testing for Covid-19, which will lead to more people being referred for testing. He said that NPHET will today consider whether to remove membership of a priorty group as a grounds for testing eligibility. If it does so, that will mark the most significant loosening of the criteria since the testing system was overwhelmed in March, leading to long delays in achieving test results. Since then, the health service has been working to increase capacity, but against the backdrop of lower referrals, meaning this capacity has not been put under pressure.

“We want to make sure (loosening restrictions) is not going to have an effect that’s beyond our capacity to test, and we don’t think it will,” he said.

According to a new Department analysis, 34 per cent of cases in healthcare workers relate to nurses, healthcare assistants amount to 24 per cent and cases among doctors account for just seven per cent.

“Since the pandemic began in Ireland, 72 nurses, 40 healthcare assistants, 22 doctors and 45 other allied healthcare workers have been hospitalised with Covid-19,” Dr Holohan said.

Reproductive rate

Meanwhile Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil the Covid-19 reproduction rate or ‘R’ number for coronavirus remains stable at between 0.5 and 0.8 . This means that a person with coronavirus is now passing it on to less than one person as opposed to 2.4 people when restrictions began on March 27th.

Mr Harris said that if the epidemic continued at that rate 4,800 people would have died and “our modelling suggests we would have 2,200 people today seriously ill in critical care”. He said that sadly, 1,190 lives have been lost to the virus.

“But thanks to the incredible efforts of the Irish people, our modelling suggests we have saved over 3,500 lives.

“That is 3,500 reasons to stay at home, 3,500 reasons to stay the course and 3,500 reasons to keep with us.”

At that time 100 people were being hospitalised every single day and 70 people were in ICU. Twenty two people had lost their lives.

“Up to 40 people a day are still being hospitalised with Covid-19. Between three to four people are being admitted to ICU every day.”

Mr Harris said that about 33 per cent of private hospital capacity is being used with some hospitals at 50 per cent.

He added that “this is increasing, and will increase further when we restart elective work”.

He said that more than 150 consultants have now signed up to the contract offered, “and I understand more will do so once the recent agreement that the HSE can fund private rooms if required to provide public services is concluded this week”

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