Coronavirus: 6,735 cases recorded as half of PCR swabs confirmed as positive

Highly infectious Omicron variant now accounting for 87% of cases in the Republic

The walk-in clinics are operating on Monday for Dose 1 and 2 and booster vaccines for healthcare workers, pregnant women and people aged over 40. Photograph: The Irish Times

The walk-in clinics are operating on Monday for Dose 1 and 2 and booster vaccines for healthcare workers, pregnant women and people aged over 40. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Almost half of coronavirus swabs reported on Monday came back as positive amid increased demand for virus testing.

It comes as another 6,735 infections were confirmed. Overall test positivity reported on Monday was 49.7 per cent, increasing from about 39.8 per cent on St Stephens’ Day and more than 32.4 per cent on Christmas day.

Positivity is significantly higher than at any other time during the pandemic, with most recently published statistics coming in at more than 27 per cent for the last seven days where data is available.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre estimated that approximately 87 per cent of reported cases are now due to the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, 461 coronavirus patients are in hospital, of which 91 are in intensive care.

The high positivity rate is influenced by lower testing volumes over Christmas, while sources also believe only very sick people would have sought testing over the Christmas day and St Stephen’s Day period, which again could push up the likelihood of positive cases being returned.

All 41 Health Service Executive testing centres will be operating on Monday as the Department of Health anticipates an increase in case numbers.

The HSE’s testing system continues to experience heavy demand for tests. Moreover, there were no PCR appointments available at community sites in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick or Waterford at lunchtime, according to the HSE’s online booking portal.

Vaccination booster clinics have reopened after the brief Christmas break. The walk-in clinics are operating on Monday for Dose 1 and Dose 2 and booster vaccines for healthcare workers, pregnant women and people aged above 40.

From this Wednesday everyone aged between 30 and 39 can book booster appointments – as well as those who received the Janssen single-dose vaccine – and will be eligible to receive a booster dose.

Infectious diseases expert Prof Sam McConkey has called on people to isolate if sick, even if they have had a negative PCR test result. Other respiratory ailments and conditions such as diarrhea could have a serious impact on people, he warned.

Speaking on Newstalk radio, Prof McConkey noted that Omicron has a replicant rate of four – which means the number of cases is doubling every two to 2½ days. This suggests that over 20 days the variant “goes up 1,000 fold” which he said “was a frightening level of speed of rise”.

Ireland is now experiencing the same impact from Omicron as had already been experienced in the UK, Denmark and South Africa, he said.

While the good news from South Africa is that patients did not get “too sick”, in the UK the rate of hospitalisation with Omicron had been 70 per cent lower, but that still meant 30 per cent could need to go to hospital.

The fact that Omicron was “less pathogenic” in Denmark could be because of the high level of vaccination and previous infections “which means people are partially protected”, he added.

Infections at present are mostly in those aged 20 years to 40 years. But the concern now is that the variant would spread to older groups over the next few weeks, which could lead to high numbers in the first two weeks of January requiring hospitalisation and oxygen.

Prof McConkey also warned that there could be further variants in the future which could be more pathogenic. The virus is not predictable.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

The argument that Omicron should be let “run its course” was not valid, he said, because if widespread transmission was delayed by a week or two it would mean less pressure on the health service and more time for the expansion of the vaccination and booster programme.

With 90,000 to 100,000 people getting the booster vaccine on a daily basis, a two-week delay could mean one million people boosted. “That’s one reason to follow [State chief medical officer] Tony Holohan’s advice.”

Hospitals need to be able to cope, not just with the disease, but also with road traffic incidents and conditions such as a burst appendix, he added.

Prof McConkey said that vaccine equity was not as big a problem in the developing world as it had been in the past because of Covax. The issue was going to be vaccine hesitancy because of “scare mongering” on social media on issues such as fertility which were untrue and unproven, he said.

Close to two million booster doses have been administered so far, which represents 47% of the eligible population.

The following walk-in vaccine booster centres are open:


Clare
West County Hotel, Ennis – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 6.30pm.

Dublin
Citywest – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 2pm. National Show Centre – boosters for 40 years and older: 12.40pm to 4pm; Healthcare workers 12.40pm to 4pm. Richmond Barracks – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 12pm.

Galway
Galway Racecourse – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 5pm; healthcare workers 8.30am to 7pm; Dose 1 and 2 clinics: 8.30am to 7pm.

Kilkenny
Cillin Hill, Kilkenny – Boosters for 40+: 8.15am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 4pm; boosters for healthcare workers 8.15am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 4pm.

Leitrim
Carrick on Shannon – boosters for 40+: 8.30am to 7.30pm; Dose 1 and 2 8.30am to 7.30pm; boosters for healthcare workers 8.30am to 7.30pm.

Limerick
Scoil Carmel, Limerick – boosters for 40 years +: 8.30am to 6.30pm.

Mayo
Breaffy House Castlebar – boosters for 40+: 8am to 1pm, 2pm to 8pm.

Monaghan
Monaghan Glencarn Hotel – booster 40+: 8.30am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 7.15pm; healthcare workers over 30 years 8.30am to 12.30pm, 1.30pm to 7.15pm.

Offaly
Offaly Vaccination Centre – boosters for 40 years and older: 10.15am to 3pm; healthcare workers over 30 years 10.15 to 3pm.

Roscommon
Roscommon Vaccination Centre – boosters for 40 years and older: 1.30pm to 7.30pm; boosters for healthcare workers 1.30pm to 7.30pm; Dose 1 and 2 are 1.30pm to 7.30pm.

Sligo
Sligo Racecourse – boosters for 40+: 8.30am to 7.30pm; healthcare workers 8.30am to 7.30pm; Dose 1 and 2 are 8.30am to 7.30pm.

Tipperary
Abbeycourt Hotel, Tipperary – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 6.30pm. Clonmel Park Hotel – boosters for 40 years and older 12pm to 5pm.

Westmeath
Moate Youth and Community Sports Centre – boosters for 40 years and older 8.30am to 7pm; healthcare workers over 30 are 8.30am to 7pm.

Wicklow
Shoreline Leisure Centre – boosters for 40 years and older: 8.30am to 12.30pm and 2.30pm to 6.30pm.

Wexford
Wexford Astro Active Centre – boosters for 40 years and older: 9am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 4pm; boosters for healthcare workers are 9am to 12.30pm, 2pm to 4pm and Dose 1 and 2: 9am to 12.30pm, 2pm to 4pm.