Delta variant driving ‘significant’ new Covid surge, Holohan warns

Government considering offering one-shot vaccine to people under 35

During the NPHET briefing, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland will soon experience a significant transmission of the Delta variant, much like Scotland or Northern Ireland. Video: RTE

The country has been warned to brace itself for a new surge in Covid-19 infections as the Government scrambles to roll out vaccines to younger people.

Data over the last 10 days has shown a concerning shift in infection patterns that health officials have interpreted as the beginning of a new wave.

"That's our belief, that we are facing a significant wave of Delta-driven transmission and we are going to be in the same situation in that respect as all of the rest of western Europe, " chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday.

The incidence of infection is increasing across almost all age groups, after a long period of stability or slow decline. This is the case among unvaccinated and partially vaccinated cohorts.


The Government was last night considering plans to offer the one-shot Janssen vaccine to people under the age of 35 following a recent change in age-cohort recommendations by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

Under that approach, vaccines would likely be administered in pharmacies while it is also possible hundreds of thousands of extra doses could be given to younger age groups in the coming weeks than previously expected.

There are about 100,000 Janssen vaccine doses in storage, about 40,000 in pharmacy stocks and 80,000 more expected to arrive this month. Officials are also awaiting 35,000 AstraZeneca doses next week and 37,000 the week after.

The news came as the death toll in the State from the pandemic reached 5,000.

According to the World Health Organisation, a 10-week decline in Covid-19 cases across Europe has now come to an end, and it has urged people to "remain disciplined" and get vaccinated to try to halt a new wave in its tracks.

Cusp of new wave

Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) epidemiological modelling advisory group, said Ireland was on the cusp of a fresh wave and the only unknowns were how big it might get and what effect it would have in terms of hospital admissions.

Incidence rates in Ireland are now increasing at a rate of 2 per cent per day. The estimated reproduction number, a key indicator monitored by public health, has risen to between 1 and 1.2 across all age groups.

“We have to be concerned that we are at the beginning of an increase in incidents driven by the delta variant,” Prof Nolan said. “That presents significant dangers to the unvaccinated population and to the partially-vaccinated population.”

Ireland would be in a much different space today if it were not for the new, highly transmissible variant, according to Nphet, who said it would otherwise not have had to recommend its highly contentious pause in the resumption of indoor dining.

As well as a worrying rise in cases emerging in the Dublin area, Nphet has drawn attention to a number of outbreaks in other parts of the country – notably in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, where between 180 and 200 cases have been linked to a pub.

Donegal now has the highest 14-day incidence of disease at 250 cases per 100,000 of population. Cases in Limerick remained high but had stabilised or decreased, while rates in Sligo had increased significantly over recent weeks.

The incidence in Dublin "had taken off versus the rest of the country over the past number of days," deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said and because of the population size, if that continues it would "drive the national picture".

He again said these cases were a cautionary tale in the ongoing need to practise hygiene, social distancing and other public-health measures to combat a virus now multiplying at a far greater pace.

“Public-health doctors are telling us at the moment that this is not like previously,” he said. “Once it gets into communities it’s spreading much easier.”

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive is expected to report a loss of more than €370 million from its acquisition of personal protective equipment early on in the pandemic due to a higher value paid at the time of purchase compared with today’s price.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent