Weekly Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes more than double, HSE reports

Deputy chief medical officer says all indicators point to deteriorating disease trajectory

Hospital outbreaks have risen from seven to 10 clusters and involve a total of 37 cases, the Health Service Executive says. Photograph: iStock

Hospital outbreaks have risen from seven to 10 clusters and involve a total of 37 cases, the Health Service Executive says. Photograph: iStock

 

The number of Covid-19 outbreaks fell last week but there were more clusters of the disease in nursing homes and hospitals, the latest Health Service Executive report shows.

A total of 174 outbreaks were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre last week, down from 205 the previous week.

Nursing home outbreaks more than doubled, from five to 13 outbreaks, involving 123 linked cases. The largest outbreak saw 22 people infected in one nursing home.

Hospital outbreaks rose from seven to 10 clusters involving a total of 37 cases, the report states.

There were 19 workplace outbreaks, down from 23 the previous week, and these involved 88 cases. Eight of these outbreaks were classified as “other workplaces” and four apiece occurred in food processing and construction.

Just three outbreaks were reported in schools, involving 15 linked cases; two were in primary schools and one was in special education. The routine tracing of most school close contacts ended in late September, so it is likely fewer asymptomatic cases are being picked up.

On Thursday, the Department of Health reported 1,627 new cases of Covid-19. A total of 415 people were treated in hospital as of 8am on Thursday, 70 of them in ICU.

Hospital impact

After the latest figures were published, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said all of the Covid-19 indicators were pointing towards a deteriorating disease trajectory nationally.

“We are seeing an increase in incidence in all age groups, including older age groups,” he said.

“As a result, we are seeing an impact on our hospital system with an average of 50 people being admitted to hospital per day (up from 35 per day at the end of September) and five admissions to intensive care per day.”

The Government says a decision will be made next week on whether the further easing of restrictions will proceed on October 22nd.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that if everyone was fully vaccinated there would be “no question” about easing restrictions.

“Israel, which saw a return of Delta, got its numbers down and under control . . . through an extensive booster programme,” said Mr Varadkar. “The case for something like that is stronger than ever.”

Of those who had chosen not to get vaccinated, Mr Varadkar said: “It is a personal choice, but the truth is that, if everyone in Ireland was fully vaccinated, we would probably have approximately 25 people in ICU and 200 in hospital overall today, and there would be no question about easing restrictions on October 22nd. It is a personal choice, but it has an impact on other people.”

‘Knife edge’

Prof Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Thursday said “fundamentally we’re on a knife edge”. Making a decision not to be vaccinated was not just a personal choice, he said of well-known people who had declined to be vaccinated. There was an obligation, he said, especially if they had a “followership”.

Meanwhile, an Irish immunologist has said the protection vaccines give against Covid-19 may be boosted through exposure to a mild infection with the virus.

For people who are vaccinated, an asymptomatic or mild dose of Sars-CoV-2 may induce potent mucosal immunity and boost their vaccine effect, Prof Mary Keogan of Beaumont Hospital said.

She said it was “highly unlikely” additional doses of vaccine would reduce mucosal responses and, therefore, prevent all infections and transmission. Mucosa refers to the lining of organs and body cavities through which viruses can enter.

In Northern Ireland, a further six people with Covid-19 have died, the North’s department of health reported on Thursday.

A total of 1,304 new positive cases were identified and 345 people were receiving treatment for Covid-19 in the North’s hospitals, with 38 in intensive care.