Up to 5% cases in Covid ‘surge’ involve fully vaccinated, HSE says

Thousand cases a day threshold has been met ahead of when expected, Paul Reid says

The spread of Covid-19 in the State has seen a very significant acceleration and one-in-20 of the new cases are people who were fully vaccinated, the Health Service Executive has said.

Up to recently, the HSE believed the 1,000 new cases a day threshold would not be reached until the end of the month, but that has already happened, HSE chief executive, Paul Reid said.

“We are very much on higher alert than we had been,” he said, adding that the HSE’s track-and-trace service has already seen a “surge” in cases and is now dealing with 20,000 tests a day.

However, the State’s hospitals have not yet seen a surge in people seeking hospitalisation, or, indeed, intensive care: “This is all still to play for, but it is certainly high risk at the moment,” he said.


He urged people to continue to take precautions, to avoid major gatherings and indoor gatherings, and to exercise hand hygiene and to be conscious of keeping indoor areas ventilated.

He was directing his message in particular at the younger, unvaccinated population, who he acknowledged had already sacrificed so much.

“Those who are most vulnerable are those who are not vaccinated.”

Vaccine registration

People aged 24 to 29 can register online for vaccination from Friday, and on Monday it is expected that those aged 18 to 24 will be given an update on when they will become eligible to do so.

The service for the 24 to 29-year-olds is immediately open to all those in that age category, and is not being staggered year by year as happened with earlier age bands.

Meanwhile, all young people can continue to seek to get vaccinated at pharmacies.

Niamh O’Beirne, the national lead on testing and tracing, told the HSE briefing that the level of positive cases was up by a further 25 per cent on Wednesday, when it reached 7.8 per cent.

At some sites the positivity rate is as high as 15 per cent. Close contacts are now running at an average of four per person.

The service is also witnessing a significant number of cases among people who have arrived from the holiday destinations of Spain, Portugal and the UK, she said.

Many had become ill with Covid within 14 days of returning home, and had tested negative prior to getting on their flights, she said.

Mr Reid said World Health Organisation data showed that the 40-day incidence rate in Ireland had gone up by 50 per cent in two weeks, and that we are now the eighth highest out of 31 European countries.

Hospitals prepare

Anne O’Connor, the chief operations officer with the HSE, said the hospital service was preparing for a surge, and that it may have to shortly begin deferring some categories of care, if the numbers being hospitalised continue to rise.

Mr Reid emphasised that those who are fully vaccinated are “very well protected against hospitalisation”, with higher than 90 per cent protection.

However, the protection was less in terms of contracting the virus.

“The concern across Europe is that it will get into the vaccinated population, but people should take confidence from how the vaccines are performing.”

The effect of the vaccination programme could be seen in the fact that 87 per cent of current cases are in people below the age of 45 years.

The vaccination programme, which is proceeding ahead of schedule and is only limited by the supply of vaccines, “is winning, and will win against this virus,” he said. “However we are not there yet.”

Uptake in Ireland was still very strong, he added, with the rate going from 99 per cent in those aged more than 80, to 91 per cent among those aged 50 to 59, to 84 per cent among those aged 40 to 49.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent