Covid-19: Department notified of 43 deaths in past week as 3,893 cases reported

No testing system in world could cope with current demand levels, Glynn says

HSE chief executive Paul Reid has told an Oireachtas health committee that the seven percent of the Irish population that remain unvaccinated against Covid-19 account for 55 per cent of those currently being treated for coronavirus in ICU.

 

The Department of Health said it has been notified of 43 deaths of people with Covid-19 in the past week.

The number of new cases of the virus reported on Wednesday was 3,893.There were 611 Covid patients in hospital and 132 in ICU.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Approximately 1 in 7 adults in the last week have had flu-like, cold-like, or Covid-like symptoms.

“The most important action you can take if you experience any symptoms of Covid-19 is to self-isolate immediately. This means staying indoors and avoiding contact with other people, including, in so far as possible, those you live with. Arrange to take a PCR test, not an antigen test, and continue to self-isolate while you wait for your test and the results.

Earlier the deputy chief medical officer said no testing system in the world would be able to cope with the current levels of demand for Covid PCR tests.

Dr Ronan Glynn said it was understandable that people were frustrated when they were unable to book a PCR test.

Dr Glynn urged people to “take a step back” and consider the level of demand at the moment. At present it appeared that between ten percent and 20 percent of adults and children in the country had cold or flu or Covid-like symptoms - that was around 700,000 people.

“Of course we’re trying to up the testing and get people tested as quickly as possible, but ultimately the test is not the public health intervention.”

“Ultimately at this point in time people’s behaviour will dictate what happens next,” he said

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Covid figures had plateaued in recent days, but at a rate of 20 percent positivity, it appeared that the public was responding to appeals to cut back on their social contacts, he said. But it would be another week before new figures indicated if the appeals had been successful.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny show on Newstalk and RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Dr Glynn said that the data showed that antigen tests were not being used correctly and people were continuing to engage in high risk activities once they had a negative test result.

“There’s this kind of false assertion that we don’t trust people to use antigen tests properly. I want to put that to bed.”

Dr Glynn pointed out that data showed that 20 percent of the population had used an antigen test in the past week, but as many as 200,000 people with symptoms who took an antigen test, got a negative result and then did not isolate.

“That’s why we’re so concerned about people using antigen tests - too many people are interpreting a negative result as implying they do not have Covid-19.”

All possible measures

Earlier the the HSE’s lead for testing and tracing said all possible measures have been takento help the health service cope with what have been unforeseen Covid testing levels in the current wave,

“We’re clearly in a wave at the moment” Damien McCallion told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland. Mr McCallion said over the last “six to seven weeks”, more than one million PCR tests had been carried out.

The pressure on the testing system was coming from clinical referrals and close contacts, he said.

“We’re still getting those same day, next day – they are the first priority for testing. It is the swabbing where the pressure is. Laboratories are performing well – our contact tracing is under pressure but performing well – it’s the access point where the challenge exists.”

Availability of tests varied around the country, Mr McCallion said. The current wave of the virus was putting pressure on all parts of the health system, “not just in testing, but in ICU, hospitals , general practices and so on. That’s clearly creating challenges for us at the moment.

“In the last seven days we’ve done over 200,000 PCR lab tests – to give it in context, in the last six to seven weeks nearly one million people have had PCR tests, when you think of our population those are huge numbers.”

“We’ve been continuing to recruit right through this, that has never stopped. We have identified measures with the private sector that have helped to bolster capacity.

“But ultimately when you’re in a wave like we’re in at the moment, where the demand is so significant right across the health care system, there will always be constraints on resources – whether that’s ICU, general practice, testing – so at the moment we’re hitting levels that none of us ever thought we’d hit – 100,000 was seen as the gold standard – we’re doing 200,000 a week.”

When asked about antigen testing in schools, Mr McCallion said no one test in any scenario was a silver bullet and that a suite of measures was required.

No further Covid restrictions will be imposed by the Government this week, as Ministers and public health officials wait until at least the end of next week before deciding if further measures are required to tackle the fourth wave.

Ministers and officials said they saw tentative signs the huge recent spike in infections, hospital cases and ICU admissions was beginning to abate, though Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was too early to be definitive.