Three to five coronavirus deaths daily ‘very significant mortality figures’, Nphet confirms

More than 1,630 further infections as public health team expresses concern on rising deaths

There have been 164 deaths reported so far for the month of September and 116 for October. File photograph: The Irish Times

There have been 164 deaths reported so far for the month of September and 116 for October. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

Covid-19 infections are growing at a “concerning” rate with significant increases in the number of admissions to hospitals and intensive care units, the National Public Health Emergency Team has said.

The Government’s public health team made a fresh appeal for people to return to using basic health measures such as hand washing, wearing face masks and staying away from crowds to prevent infections growing “at a rate that we simply cannot cope with.”

The State’s chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that “small changes” in people’s everyday behaviours and additional safety precautions - on top of the benefits of vaccinations - could lead to “significant changes” in the increasing pattern of transmission.

“If we don’t find the means within us in terms of our behaviour and the environments we are operating in being made as safe as possible, then we don’t want to be in a situation where we have to consider what further measures will be needed,” said Dr Holohan.

Uncertain

At the latest Nphet media briefing on Covid-19, the deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn, said the “future trajectory” of the disease was “very uncertain.”

All closely watched measures showed a worsening picture of Covid-19. Cases were rising at between 1 and 3 per cent per day, said Dr Glynn.

There were more than 14,000 new cases last week, the fourth highest weekly total. Only three weeks during the third and worst wave last winter were higher.

There were 1,631 new cases reported on Wednesday. Dr Glynn said this number may appear lower than the 2,000-plus daily cases being reported because of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Infections were rising across all counties with Kerry, Waterford, Carlow and Longford recording particularly high levels of the disease.

One measure that was concerning Nphet in particular, said Dr Glynn, was the number of Covid-19 tests increasing every day with the number of positive tests rising too.

“All of this is translating into increasing numbers in hospital,” he said.

There has been a 27 per cent increase in patients being admitted to hospital over the past two weeks, rising to 503 on Wednesday morning. Of these, 101 people were in hospital ICUs, with the average daily rate of ICU admissions running at around six people a day.

Slippage

Some 67 deaths were notified in the past week, putting the death toll from Covid-19 for September at 164 and 116 for October but these numbers will rise significantly, said Dr Glynn.

Asked whether limited ICU capacity in hospitals was affecting the State’s response to Covid-19, Dr Holohan said that “whether we can cope with it or not is almost not the question” but that “we shouldn’t be experiencing a situation where we want to prevent it.”

Hospitals were facing “very significant” pressure in dealing with Covid-19, he said.

The CMO said that new behavioural research had shown “slippage” in people’s adherence to basic precautionary measures.

Economic and Social Research Institute surveys found that people were visiting more places than in January and wearing masks, socially distancing and hand-washing less now.

Dr Deirdre Robertson of the ESRI’s behaviour unit said that as restrictions have eased and social activity has increased, public behaviour has “become a bit more risky” and that precautionary measures have been “gradually decreasing since the start of the year.”

Nphet’s data showed there has been a rise in cases across the vast majority of age groups. Prof Breda Smyth, director of public health for HSE West, said the rise in cases among children aged between the ages of five and 12 years old was “concerning.”

With greater mixing expected over the coming Halloween weekend, Dr Glynn advised parents to limit social contacts over the weekend and isolate any sick children.

“People can trick or treat, people can do the things they normally do on Halloween. Maybe don’t do it every day - maybe don’t meet up with multiple groups of children,” he said.

Dr Holohan said there was “understandable expression of impatience in some quarters” as the National Immunisation Advisory Committee’s advice was awaited on whether the booster vaccine doses should be extended to healthcare workers given the strain on the health system.

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