Number of Covid-19 patients in ICU highest since early April - Holohan

Over 90% of over-16s must be vaccinated before restrictions are eased, Nphet says

 Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, during a Covid-19 press briefing at the Department of Health, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, during a Covid-19 press briefing at the Department of Health, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A further 1,866 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on Thursday evening.

A total of 331 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised as of 8am on Thursday, and of them 61 are in ICU.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “This evening, 61 people with Covid-19 are receiving critical care in hospital. That is the highest number since April 3rd this year.

“Critical care is our last line of defence against Covid-19 and I know this figure will concern many of us. There are however many other ways we can protect ourselves and our loves ones from severe outcomes from Covid-19.

“Vaccination remains our best means of protection against Covid-19. The vaccines available in Ireland are very safe and effective against Covid-19. There are still some people who haven’t yet taken up the opportunity of vaccination or, who have delayed receiving a second dose for various reasons. I strongly encourage anyone who is in this position to ensure they get fully vaccinated as soon as possible in order to best protect themselves and those around them.

“When incidence of disease is high, as it is in Ireland at the moment, it greatly increases the risk to you of contracting Covid-19. If you complete your vaccine schedule you will be fully protected seven-14 days after your second dose.

“Vaccination, along with continuing adherence to the public health advice, will break the chains of transmission and drive down incidence of Covid-19 in our communities.

“If you display symptoms of Covid-19 like cough, fever, headache, sore throat and blocked or runny nose - isolate and get a test immediately. Continue to regularly wash hands, wear a mask when appropriate, keep your distance, open windows and ventilate indoor spaces and avoid crowds. Manage your social contacts and choose outdoors where possible for meeting others.”

Earlier, the Government was told by the State’s public health emergency team that a high threshold will have to be met in Covid-19 vaccinations and other criteria before legal pandemic restrictions can be lifted.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is understood to have written to the Government and said that more than 90 per cent of people over the age of 16 would have to be fully vaccinated before the next exit from pandemic measures can be considered. That vaccination target is expected to be reached at some point in the next six weeks.

Furthermore, other criteria would have to be met, such as all disease indicators being stable or improving in terms of incidence and case numbers. If followed, this advice would mean that it would be October before any major changes happen.

The Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee is meeting on Friday, where the next plan for reopening will be discussed.

It is understood that any final timelines for the resumption of certain sectors, such as live entertainment, will be set at Friday’s meeting before final agreement at a full Cabinet meeting next week.

Nphet met on Wednesday to finalise its advice to Government ahead of the meeting of the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee on Friday.

A Government source said it is not yet clear what restrictions can be lifted before October, on the basis of the Nphet letter. It also understood no dates were outlined in the letter, which means it will be fully up to Government to decide what happens when.

Call for clarity

Meanwhile, an immunology expert has called for clearer communications from the various Government bodies advising on Covid-19 amid confusion over the staging of events such as the Electric Picnic music festival.

Prof Paul Moynagh said chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had said it would be acceptable for the event to go ahead for a fully vaccinated audience, but that Laois County Council said it had been advised against this by the HSE.

Organisers had hoped the festival could proceed with as many as 70,000 attendees on the weekend of September 24th to 26th.

However, the council said on Wednesday there is “no provision in law” to enable it to revisit the refusal of an event licence.

Prof Moynagh told Newstalk Breakfast that despite the success of the vaccine rollout in the State, which has seen more than 90 per cent of adults receive a first dose, there would still be outbreaks of the disease.

“You’re never going to get a zero risk situation. We now have to live with the virus,” he said, adding that vaccines were serving their purpose by preventing serious illness and reducing deaths.

Identify risks

Prof Moynagh said that as restrictions are eased, risks should be identified and measures taken to mitigate against them.

“We need to move along, to focus on issues like air filtration and quality.”

Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty told the same programme it was time to give people confidence and agreed with Prof Moynagh that risks should be identified and people should then use personal responsibility.

She said it was time for people to get excited about their lives getting back to normal.

A further 2,051 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were notified by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Wednesday. There were 323 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 56 in intensive care.