Coronavirus: Case numbers set to stay high as 5,483 reported on Friday

Backlog contributes to latest daily total but figure could peak at 12,300 a day, says IHME

Case numbers in the coming days are likely to remain at such high levels, as the process of clearing a massive backlog of tests is under way. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Case numbers in the coming days are likely to remain at such high levels, as the process of clearing a massive backlog of tests is under way. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A further 5,483 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State on Friday.

As of 8am Friday morning, there 549 people in hospital with the virus, with 96 of those in intensive care.

Case numbers in the coming days are likely to remain at such high levels, as the process of clearing a massive backlog of tests is under way. Friday’s figures include a backlog of about 1,200 cases from the past three days.

However, Ireland could record more than 12,000 Covid-19 cases a day by Christmas, according to a forecast by US academics.

Cases would peak at 12,300 a day in late December before falling again, while a further 2,000 deaths would occur by the start of March, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which is based at the University of Washington.

The institute, which has correctly predicted trends earlier in the pandemic, attributes the rise in cases in the northern hemisphere to winter seasonality, waning immunity, decreased mask use and increased mobility levels.

Reacting to Friday’s figures chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Today we are reporting one of our highest ever daily figures of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“This is another indication of the very significant increase in the incidence of disease in almost all age-groups across the population.

“As we look ahead to the weekend, we need to continue to make every effort we can to drive down incidence of disease and break the chains of transmission. Before you leave the house, think about the number of people you are going to meet, and the risk associated with the activities you have planned.

“Vaccines remain extraordinarily effective against severe disease, and the vast majority of people with Covid-19 are experiencing mild symptoms. However, the outcome for any one individual who is diagnosed with Covid-19 is uncertain and it remains vital that we all continue to adhere to the public health advice in order to protect ourselves and our families”

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
707 69

Antigen test decision

Earlier Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Government will consider a wider distribution of antigen tests when it meets next week.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Friday advised that people who engage in high-risk activities should consider taking an antigen test twice a week.

In a letter to Government, Nphet warned that the situation in relation to Covid-19 is concerning and uncertain, and that while it was not recommending any significant new restrictions, it cannot be ruled out in future.

A return to a policy of working from home where possible is one of the major recommendations. A Cabinet subcommittee will convene on Monday to discuss this before a decision is taken at Cabinet next Tuesday.

Mr Martin said he didn’t expect tests to be distributed to every household and highlighted how they are already being sent to people who are close contacts of a Covid case.

But he also said: “Nphet’s advice has advanced and evolved in respect of antigen testing so in that context we will be giving further consideration in terms of a wider distribution of antigen testing to the public.”

In terms of the use of antigen tests in schools Mr Martin said that symptomatic children should stay at home.

He said chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has said there will be specific circumstances where the tests can be used in schools.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said the HSE has been tasked with devising how this will work.

During a visit to Galway Mr Martin was asked if there are contingency plans if Covid numbers keep surging,

He said the vaccine booster campaign is having an impact in reducing cases among the over-80s and behaviour “does matter” in terms of seeking to lower the number of cases.

He added: “the impact of the booster will be something we’ll keep an eye on in respect of the degree to which it reduces – particularly admissions to hospital in certain age cohorts.”

In other advice from Nphet Mr Martin said there is “a very strong piece on mask wearing particularly in outdoor sporting events, that masks would now be worn in large crowds and in congregated settings.”

Sports events are now at full capacity and the Aviva Stadium was sold out for Thursday’s football clash between Ireland and Portugal.

Working from home

Mr Martin said the Government will consider the “very effective” safety measures brought in by employers as it considers public health advice that people should return to working from home.

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, said that he did not believe Nphet was advocating against accommodating people who have to go their normal place of work for specific purposes but the government will be considering the Nphet advice carefully in terms of continuing with its current policy.

“What we will have to consider now as a government, taking on board the Nphet letter, is whether to continue the policy of the phased return to the workplace which has been government policy up to now and that is something we will have to consider, having carefully studied their letter.”

The letter came after the secretary of the Infectious Disease Society of Ireland said going into an office for work every day was riskier than occasionally going to a nightclub.

Infectious diseases consultant Dr Eoghan de Barra said he understood the recommendation to work from home if possible, even though nightclubs remain open, as going to a nightclub is an occasional event while going to an office is a daily event with other people, which is a bigger risk, he told Newstalk Breakfast on Friday.

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