Holohan warns Covid-19 moving in ‘wrong direction’ as 431 cases, 6 deaths reported

Taoiseach says ‘we in the Republic need to take note of what’s happening in the North in terms of how we behave’

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photograph: Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin

 

There were 431 new Covid-19 cases and six further coronavirus-related deaths reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet)on Wednesday.

Chief medical officer said there were “significant and concerning indicators that this disease in moving in the wrong direction.”

He said these include an increase in positivity rates, and the 5 day moving avaverage has now increased to 339 new daily cases while the seven day incidence rate is 48.7 per 100,000.

“ Recent international experience has demonstrated just how quickly this disease can get out of control,” he said.

“These trends are all the more troubling because of the delicate and precarious situation we are in - as a country, we are heading into a period of potential widespread inter-household and inter-generational mixing,” he said. Restrictions on intercounty travel and indoor visits are due to be lifted on Friday for the Christmas period.

“This is an ideal opportunity for the virus to spread and impact on those most vulnerable to its severest effects. Don’t give Covid-19 this chance: limit your contacts, prioritise who you meet, and let’s remain vigilant so we can get through this together,” he said.

He said Nphet would meet on Thursday to review the epidemiological situation.

The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in the State is now at 2,140 and the total number of confirmed cases is 77,197 . There were 22 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours and as of 2pm on Wednesday, 207 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 30 are in ICU. Of the cases notified on Wendesday 67 per cent are aged under 45. Cases included 134 in Dublin, 53 in Donegal, 24 in Cavan, 24 in Louth and 22 in Mayo. The highest 14-day incidence per 100,000 is in Donegal (87.9), followed by Louth (201.7), Kilkenny (197.5), Carlow (156.3) and Cavan (147)

Earlier Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned that the Covid-19 crisis in the North could happen in the State “if we allow things to go out of control”.

Expressing solidarity with Northern Ireland where patients were being treated in rows of ambulances outside hospitals because of the lack of beds and increasing incidence of the virus, Mr Martin said the situation there was “very, very worrying and concerning”.

Mr Martin added that “it also illustrates the exponential growth of the virus once it gets to a certain critical level and we in the Republic need to take note of what’s happening in the North in terms of how we behave collectively and individually”.

Warning that “every contact matters”, he said “what we’re witnessing in Northern Ireland could happen here if we allow things to go out of control - which we’re not going to do”.

The latest figures from the North’s Department of Health show hospital bed occupancy in Northern Ireland is now at 105 per cent. The department also recorded eight more Covid-19 deaths taking the total to 1,143. There were 510 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 59,631 cases.

Meanwhile the chair of the State’s vaccine taskforce has said all nursing home residents and staff could be vaccinated by the mid to late Febuary, according to provisional modelling.

Prof Brian MacCraith told the Oireachtas health committee that while this was not a goal or target modelling, had been undertaken of different rates of vaccine arrival, staff available to administer the vaccines, and the number of people in residential care settings in the State - a category which includes nursing homes.

He said there are almost 600 such facilities in the country, with some 78,000 residents and staff living within them.

“If you look at those numbers, and you look at that initial cohort of vaccinators, you can start to think that that cohort might complete their vaccinations by mid-to-late February, for example,” he told Fine Gael TD Colm Burke, emphasising that this in turn would be dependent on the numbers of vaccines arriving.

Prof MacCraith also confirmed that the current expectation is that several “shippers” of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine would be arriving in the State before the end of the year, each containing some 5,000 doses. While he said there wasn’t “absolute confirmation” on the numbers, when pushed by Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane, he said that before the end of the calendar year it is expected “small multiples” of that number would be delivered.

“If you take that 4,875 (doses) per shipper, and we would expect a small number of shippers. It may be one, it may be two. We don’t know exactly that yet, it hasn’t been confirmed”.

European regulators will review the PfizerBioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine next week, earlier than initially planned, amid growing pressure to speed up approval of the shot. A European Medicines Agency committee will meet Monday to consider the vaccine after receiving more data from the developers, the drugs watchdog said in a statement Tuesday. Once a recommendation is made, the European Commission is expected to decide whether to clear the shot within days. The announcement means the first EU residents will likely be immunized before the end of the year, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a tweet.