Covid: Record daily number of hospital admissions set in past 24 hours

Health system under ‘severe pressure’ due to surge in cases, says HSE chief clinical officer

A surge in Covid-19 infections and staff absences due to illness has put the hospital system under "severe pressure", the HSE's chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry has said.

New infections have risen to near-record daily highs driven by the more transmissible Omicron BA.2 subvariant, leading to higher hospitalisations and healthcare staff absences.

Dr Henry said there were 225 people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the highest number of new admissions in a day since the pandemic began.

The 4,500 healthcare staff out of work due to Covid-19 had resulted in the suspension of some specialist teams, while the flow of patient discharges has been affected because of the “extraordinary high levels” of outbreaks in nursing homes, he added.


“I remain significantly concerned over the impact of widespread community transmission, particularly among unvaccinated or vulnerable people,” he said.

There were a further 21,098 Covid-19 cases reported by the Department of Health on Wednesday, including 14,060 who registered a positive antigen test with the HSE.

There were 1,395 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, an increase of 56 on the previous day. Of these, 55 patients were intensive care units, a decrease of six from Tuesday.

A significant proportion of people with Covid-19 in hospital tested positive for the coronavirus while being treated there for other illnesses.

A HSE spokeswoman said of the hospitalised Covid-19 cases, almost 52 per cent required hospital care for disease caused by the coronavirus.

New HSE figures show there were 303 “open” outbreaks in nursing homes, including 34 new outbreaks recorded in the past week. An outbreak is defined as two or more linked cases and they are only declared closed if there have been no new infections for 28 days.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people make up a majority of people who were severely ill in hospital and intensive are units with the disease, Dr Henry said.

Some 62 per cent in ICUs had not been boosted with a third Covid-19 vaccine, he said.

‘Levers’ and mandates

On whether new restrictions might be required to stem the wave, Dr Henry said vaccinations had provided a level of protection from severe illness across the population and that other “levers” could be pulled to prevent the transmission of the disease.

“Let us look at the levers that we have: vaccination, isolation of symptomatic people and mask wearing where there is any risk of transmission,” he said.

Dr Henry recommended that people carry a mask with them and to wear them on public transport and in crowded or congregated settings in order to prevent further transmission.

“Just because the [mask] mandate was removed at the end of February doesn’t mean people don’t have to wear them,” he said.

“There is a risk that people do not see the ongoing importance of critical measures to control transmission such as vaccination, boosters and isolation if symptomatic.”

He said there had been more reinfections recorded because there was no “cross immunity” from previous infections with the Delta or earlier variants to the new Omicron variants.

He urged people to isolate even if they test negative on antigen tests at home.

Strategy ‘rethink’

The HSE has said that it has not been possible to accurate estimate reinfection rates due to the large surge in cases during the Omicron wave over the Christmas period and the changes in Covid-19 testing policy in response to that wave.

It is operating 36 Covid-19 community testing centres across the country where 14,400 PCR swabs were taken on Tuesday. Almost 41,000 antigen test kits were dispatched yesterday.

Infectious diseases consultant Dr Jack Lambert, a professor at UCD's school of medicine, said the Government needs to rethink its Covid-19 prevention strategy.

It has “thrown caution to the wind” by not encouraging people to take preventative measures such wearing masks again, he said.

“This virus is hugely contagious and hanging all your hat on the vaccines and throwing all other Covid mitigation strategies to the wind has a consequence,” he said.

There was “a healthcare worker crisis” due to the number of staff out of work because they have caught the virus, mostly from the community rather than hospital, he said.

“I have staff who are tripled-vaccinated who have had two episodes of Covid in the last two months. They didn’t get sick but they had to take time off work,” he said.

Dr Lambert said he has used monoclonal antibodies to stimulate the immune systems on “dozens” of immunocompromised patients due to the surge in cases. Infected people were showing different symptoms such as gastrointestinal issues and dizziness, he said.

“It is a different disease than it was two years ago but it is still having a huge impact on the healthcare system and it is going to prevent other healthcare we are supposed to be giving,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times