Covid-19: 2,399 new cases reported by Nphet, the highest figure since January

Tony Holohan says he cannot rule out reintroduction of restrictions in the future

Chief Medical Officer  Dr Tony Holohan,  pointed out that based on past experiences, Nphet cannot predict with certainty the future trajectory of the disease.  Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, pointed out that based on past experiences, Nphet cannot predict with certainty the future trajectory of the disease. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

There were 2,399 new cases reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Tuesday, the highest daily number since January of this year.

The worsening Covid-19 situation was described by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Tuesday as a “twin peak” of cases with the Delta variant. He was speaking as Ministers announced a revised reopening plan which will see easing of further restrictions on the night-time economy coupled with the retention of public health measures until at least February 2022.

Nphet advised Ministers ahead of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. In his letter to Government, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said Nphet could not fully rule out the reintroduction of restrictions in the future. He pointed out that based on past experiences, Nphet cannot predict with certainty the future trajectory of the disease.

“We must continue to ensure our response is agile and flexible, with an ability to pivot rapidly and respond to any emerging threat.” He said the “Nphet cautions that the re-imposition of public health restrictive measures may be warranted” if the existing measures around masks, social distancing and Covid passes do not prove effective.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Dr Holohan have called on the public to “double down” on their efforts amid rising Covid case numbers.

Tuesday’s figures show there are 473 patients in hospital and 74 in ICU. The five-day case average is 1,890. Mr Donnelly told RTÉ News at One higher case numbers will lead to more hospitalisations in the coming weeks and higher numbers requiring ICU treatment, he added.

Mr Donnelly said he had spoken with Dr Holohan and they both wanted to emphasise the need for “fantastic collective action” by the public and for everyone to “double down” on what they had done over the last 18 months.

“This is going to get worse before it gets better, unfortunately,” he said.

“We really need that fantastic collective action that we’ve had from people in Ireland before and we really need everyone to just double down on what people have done so well over the last 18 months.”

The Government had been advised by Nphet to exercise a “serious note of caution” when it came to the easing of restrictions.

The message was that the country could open up, but it would have to do so carefully. Mr Donnelly repeated a call for anyone who was not yet vaccinated to do so. He pointed out that at present only 7 per cent of the population was not vaccinated, but two thirds of patients in ICU were unvaccinated. This was putting “a serious burden” on the healthcare system.

The current situation was very different from three weeks ago when the situation was more optimistic. The most pessimistic modelling indicated that numbers could rise to 800 to 1,000 hospitalisations per day and 150 to 200 in ICU which would result in the widespread cancellation of other procedures.

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that we are now experiencing a “twin peak” of cases with the Delta variant.

“The situation took a turn for the worst two or three weeks ago. We have seen rising case numbers, rising hospitalisations, rising ICU numbers. So we are not where we had hoped to be or expected to be by October 22nd,” he told reporters at a press conference.

“You recall the last time we made major decisions was at the end of August last year. At that point we thought that by October 22nd we would have over 90 per cent of people over 60 fully vaccinated and we would be past the peak of the Delta wave. While we do now have over 90 per cent of people over 60 fully vaccinated, we are not past the peak of the Delta wave. Indeed we are most likely experiencing a twin peak.”

With regard to the return to work, Mr Donnelly said that a phased return to work was still operable and that Nphet was encouraging people to exercise common sense. Where possible employers should give staff the option to continue to work from home, he said.

Mr Donnelly called on the hospitality sector to improve compliance rates as data suggested that one third of venues were not compliant with one out of three diners saying they were not asked for their Covid cert. The compliance rate needed to be higher, he said that would help protect customers and staff.

The situation with nightclubs was an anomaly, he said and “detailed specifics” would be worked out between Nphet and the sector in the coming days.

The Minister said that an information campaign would commence to instruct people on the correct use of antigen tests which could be used on asymptomatic close contacts including children over the age of 12.