Coronavirus: Five further deaths and 461 new cases reported as a quarter of adults get first vaccine

Number of Covid-19 patients in hospital falls to 162, the lowest level since October

Vaccinators administering Covid 19 Vaccinations of Cohort 4 at the HSE Vaccination Centre in the Aviva Stadium .Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Vaccinators administering Covid 19 Vaccinations of Cohort 4 at the HSE Vaccination Centre in the Aviva Stadium .Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

There were five further deaths and 461 new cases of Covid-19 reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Saturday.

A quarter of eligible adults in the State have now had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine rollout reached a new record on Thursday when 41,337 additional doses of the vaccine were administered.

“Biggest day yet in the #CovidVaccine rollout yesterday with 41,500 doses given out,” the Taoiseach tweeted.

It amounts to more than the equivalent of 1 per cent of the adult population of 3.8 million receiving a dose in a single day.

Micheál Martin said 25 per cent of eligible adults have so far received their first dose (948,000) while 10 per cent were fully vaccinated with two doses (381,000).

The number of vaccines administered has steadily increased during the week from 11,028 on Monday, 21,478 on Tuesday and 34,863 on Wednesday and 41,337 on Thursday.

“The vaccines, vaccinators, and volunteers are making a real difference,” Mr Martin tweeted.

The latest figures released by Nphet bring the total number of people who have died with Covid-19 to 4,872 and the total number of cases to date is 246,204. The five-day moving average of daily Covid cases is at 460. Of the cases notified on Saturday 75 percent are under 45 with a median age of 28.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has fallen to 162, with 46 in ICU, the figures show. There have been nine additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours. It is the lowest number in hospital with Covid-19 since October 8th last year.

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Commenting on the hospitalisation figures, HSE chief Paul Reid said it was “important that we continue this dual approach and we can all soon get back to much of what we value”.

Elsewhere there has been one further death of a patient who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. Another 80 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24-hour reporting period. On Saturday morning, there were 64 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital, six of whom were in ICU.

Vaccine supply

There was also boost the the vaccine programme last night with news of improved supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The State is set to receive a large delivery of 165,000 AstraZeneca vaccines next week that had earlier been postponed until May.

AstraZeneca now expects to hit its European delivery target of 20 million doses this month, and 70 million in the second quarter, with Ireland receiving a pro rata share of about 1 per cent.

The Health Service Executive, which has complained about repeated changes to the company’s delivery schedule, said last night it was “more hopeful than we were” of supplies arriving next week.

The latest change in the supply plan for the AstraZeneca vaccine has been made possible after the European Medicines Agency licensed the manufacture of its vaccine in a plant in Asia.

The European Medicines Agency has reiterated that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine outweigh any risks, as part of a detailed guidance into rare blood clots to help individual nations determine the shot’s use.

On Saturday the HSE opened its online vaccination bookings for 63 year olds, who will be offered the AstraZeneca doses.More than 170,000 people have registered since the portal went live last week.

The AstraZeneca shot has been limited in the State to people aged over 60 due to reports of rare blood clots connected with the vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is considering whether to broaden its use in the population. .

There is an expectation in Government that the Niac will also authorise the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine for use next week, paving the way for a further acceleration of the programme. Sources drew encouragement from Germany’s decision not to impose limits on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while last night, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the use of the vaccine should resume following a 10-day pause.

Mr Reid said that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved the HSE would begin administering the shots next week. He said the organisation would have 40,000 doses of the single-dose vaccine by next week.

Mr Martin said that approval to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the Niac would “really advance the programme” of vaccinations.

There are concerns in Government that a restrictive decision would hit public support for the vaccine programme and damage the wider effort to suppress the virus.

Reopening

Meanwhile, momentum continues to grow towards reopening economic and social life and officials are working on options for Ministers to consider next week. There was significant relief among Ministers at the broadly positive outlook presented by chief medical officer Tony Holohan after his return to frontline duties this week, according to sources.

It is expected that the Government will unveil the reopening measures next Thursday or Friday, after a special Cabinet meeting.

Monday will bring several changes in Covid restrictions including that underage non-contact outdoor training can recommence in pods of 15 or fewer. Many outdoor sports facilities can reopen, such as pitches, golf courses and tennis courts. While the reopening of zoos, open pet farms and heritage sites will be allowed. The maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25.

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