Covid-19: 23,281 new cases provisionally reported by Department of Health

Humphreys announces new documentation for availing of Enhanced Illness Benefit

The Department of Health has provisionally reported 23,281 new cases of Covid-19 in the State.

If confirmed, it would be the highest daily total since the pandemic began in 2020.

It said that as of 8am, there were 656 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, of which 85 are in ICU. The total is down 26 from Friday, when there were a total of 682 patients in hospital.

Hospital Report

In a statement, the department said that given the current high incidence, “the daily case number is based on positive SARS-CoV-2 results uploaded to the HSE COVID Care Tracker the preceding day. These data are provisional.”


On Friday 20,110 new coronavirus cases were confirmed, close to the previous day’s record of 20,554. With the testing system overloaded, officials say these figures underestimate the true number of infections by at least 40 per cent.

Also on Saturday, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said three new forms of documentation can be used to avail of the Enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350.

The move comes following changes to the Covid-19 testing procedure. The Department of Social Protection will now accept confirmation from the HSE that an individual has ordered an antigen test, a text message from the HSE saying you are a close contact or certification from your GP that you have symptoms of Covid-19 and/or are a probable source of infection.

The system for ordering antigen tests will be in place from Monday, January 3rd. A positive PCR test result will also be valid to avail of the payment, as has previously been the case.

“It’s so important that anyone who receives a positive test or is displaying symptoms self-isolates and follows the public health advice,” Ms Humphreys said in a statement.

Mater’s appeal

Meanwhile, Dublin’s Mater hospital has issued an appeal to the public to avoid its emergency department (ED) because of the pressure that Covid-19 is putting on its services.

The Mater said the combination of Covid-19 admissions, high levels of staff off duty as a result of the virus and a high number of presentations to the emergency department is causing lengthy waiting times.

In a statement, the hospital added: “Where possible, the Mater advises patients with non-emergency conditions to seek assistance from other parts of the health service such as minor injury units or their GP.

“However, any patient who is in need of emergency hospital care will of course be seen and the Mater would urge such patients not to delay and to seek such care.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this causes to the public and thank them for their understanding and cooperation.”

Pressure on the hospital system eased somewhat on New Year’s Day morning with 115 discharges, the most in one day since February 9th last year.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has reiterated its calls for hospitals to curtail all non-emergency activity and for greater measures to be taken to reduce workplace transmission of Covid-19.

“Our fragile health services are being held together at the moment by an exhausted nursing workforce who are experiencing high levels of burnout. Annual leave is being cancelled by many in order to fill rosters and many nurses are reporting that they are staying beyond their scheduled work hours to care for patients,” said the union’s general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

“Our public hospital system is too small to cope with servicing emergency care, Covid care and elective treatments. It is time for the State to step up and ensure that all capacity that can be gained from the private sector is used.

“The HSE and political system has a responsibility to an exhausted medical workforce to ensure their workplaces are as safe as they can be. There must be no tolerance for hospital overcrowding while a highly transmissible airborne virus is making its way around our hospitals. Improvements to air quality in our hospitals must be a priority.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times