Covid-19: Every 100 fewer cases means 20 fewer deaths, expert says

Dr Tony Holohan says focus should not be on tracing but on public’s response to Level 5 measures

 Dr Tony Holohan at a media briefing on Thursday this evening. Photograph: Stephen Collins / Collins

Dr Tony Holohan at a media briefing on Thursday this evening. Photograph: Stephen Collins / Collins


Every reduction by 100 of daily Covid-19 cases will result in 120 fewer hospitalisations, 15 fewer intensive care admissions and 20 fewer deaths over the next month, Prof Philip Nolan has said

Speaking at a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) briefing, Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group chair Prof Nolan said coronavirus case numbers and hospitalisations were growing at about 5 per cent per day and intensive care admissions by 3 per cent.

Although Covid-19 in the State remains largely focused in the 19 to 24 age group, cases are now rising in the over-65s and in nursing homes, Prof Nolan said.

A further 1,066 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the State on Thursday, along with three additional deaths.

As the State entered into Level 5 Covid restrictions, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said there were concerns about public buy-in to the increased demands on limited movement and behaviour.

“It is not surprising that people would find another ask to do all of this all over again a hugely difficult challenge,” he said.

“I’m not going to get into predicting failure; I am going to be expressing optimism that we can do this.”

However, while the Nphet target is to reduce daily case rates to 100 by December, from the current level of about 1,000 to 1,200 new cases a day, the data presented at the briefing on Thursday illustrated the upward trajectory of the virus.

Dr Heather Burns, a deputy chief medical officer, noted that the 14-day incidence rate of infection had surpassed 300 for the first time – standing now at 302, as compared with just three at the end of June.

“The risk to you being exposed to Covid-19 is now 100 times greater than it was four months ago,” she said.

The “R” number, indicating the reproductive level of the virus, is currently between 1.3 and 1.4, with ambitions to see it fall to 0.5 following the latest round of social restrictions.

For every 1,000 positive cases in the 45 and under age group, 12 are hospitalised and one is admitted to intensive care. However, for those aged 65 and over, those figures jump dramatically to 180 and 30 respectively.

Nursing homes

Dr Holohan warned that nursing homes cannot be protected from Covid-19 outbreaks unless the public comes together to bring down rising levels of community transmissions.

Nphet disclosed six further outbreaks in nursing home and community hospital settings to October 17th. There are now 33 such outbreaks, with 451 linked cases, but the team stressed that only a national response to the resurgence of the virus would help bring the numbers down.

“The extent that this virus is transmitting in the way that it is in the community, this represents a risk to all of those settings,” Dr Holohan said.

“So long as we retain high transmission in the community as we have at the moment, it will be impossible for us to give full protection to nursing homes”, even where protective measures have been put in place, he said.

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer of the HSE, said 132 nursing homes were currently receiving some sort of support, including 35 receiving “extensive support”, such as that from Covid response teams.

Dr Holohan was asked about concerns regarding the contact tracing system and its ability to keep pace, but he said the most important focus now was not tracing but the public response to Level 5 measures and their ability to slow community transmission.

“We have a much, much greater challenge now in terms of the level of community transmission that is in the population . . . and that is spreading in places that we haven’t been able to identify,” he said.

“We won’t contact trace our way out of this; we have to take other measures as a society.”

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, its Department of Health reported 1,042 new cases of Covid-19, as well as five more deaths.

Stormont business will continue as usual notwithstanding that four of the Northern Executive’s 10 full Ministers are self-isolating, First Minister Arlene Foster said on Thursday.