Covid-19: Growing concern over rising hospital numbers – HSE chief

Latest figures show 360 patients in hospitals on Sunday, marking rise of 32 in 24 hours

Health Service Executive chief executive officer Paul Reid. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Service Executive chief executive officer Paul Reid. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


There is growing concern about the number of Covid-19 cases in the community and the rising hospital admissions in Ireland, the head of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has said.

Paul Reid said there has been a slight increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus this weekend.

There are 360 patients in hospitals on Sunday, a rise of 32 patients in 24 hours.

The 14-day incidence rate has been at 150 per 100,000 of the population for about a week.

Mr Reid on Sunday told Newstalk On The Record programme that hospital numbers have been “stuck” over recent weeks and the number of patients with Covid-19 is the same as the peak in the second wave.

“We’re at no way normal levels in our hospitals,” said Mr Reid.

“In the last week when we saw the numbers stuck for the past few weeks, they had come down for the past five or six weeks very well.

“A slight increase again this weekend would give us concern around trends, particularly in line with some of the cases we’re seeing come through this weekend, a slight rise in cases would give us concern.”

He said he can sense the public’s “frustration and anger” in recent days.

“All we can do is tell the facts of where things are at the minute and you would be concerned with what you see happening across Europe, ” he added.

“From the HSE’s perspective, we still see a very high positivity rate.”

He said that a close contact of a positive case has a 25 per cent likelihood of becoming infected.

“We know the transmission levels, particularly of this B117 variant, are still very strong and the positivity rate is still very high,” he said.

“It is important that everyone protects themselves and hold their guard.”

GPs have also reported a rise in referrals for Covid-19 tests.

Meanwhile, HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said they are confident the 30,000 people who missed the AstraZeneca vaccine last week will be covered over the next seven to 10 days.

The use of AstraZeneca in Ireland was paused last Sunday following reports of unusual blood clots in Norway.

It resumed on Saturday following the green light from the European Medicines Agency and Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

Mr Henry also raised concerns about the “definite stagnation” in the number of Covid-19 cases.

“We are seeing a stubbornly high level of new cases identified every day, in the order of 500 or 600 cases,” he told RTÉ News at One.

He also said the 14-day incidence is stagnated.

“That famous R value, the accumulative measurement of all individual interactions we all have, is stuck on 1, which means that the disease is stable or increasing.

“There are other signals of concern which sometimes anticipate deteriorations in some of these numbers, and one of those is an increase of referrals for GP testing.

“Another is close contact — very high positivity percentage of 24 per cent.

“There is a lot of illness out there, it hasn’t gone away and it’s much higher than what it was in December.

“As long as we see that illness it will convert to hospital admissions.”

There has been one further death of a patient who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

On Sunday, Another 125 confirmed cases of the virus were recorded by the Department of Health in the last 24-hour reporting period.

On Sunday, there were 158 Covid-positive confirmed inpatients in hospital, of whom 14 were in ICU.

On Saturday, a further nine deaths of people with Covid-19 were recorded in the Republic.

Seven of the deaths occurred in March, and two occurred in February.

Another 525 cases were also notified by the Department of Health. – PA