A further 1,470 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State on Tuesday.
According to the latest figures, the number of people in hospital with the virus was 367, of whom 59 were in ICU.
The latest case numbers follow confirmation from the Health Service Executive (HSE) that close to three in four teenagers aged 16 to 17 have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while more than half are now fully vaccinated.
|Total doses distributed to Ireland||Total doses administered in Ireland|
The vaccination age breakdown, shared by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Tuesday afternoon, shows more than half (56 per cent) of 12- to 15-year-olds have had their first dose, while 1 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
Vaccination rates are highest in the older age groups, with 99 per cent of people over 70 finished their vaccination course. In the 50-plus cohort, 95 per cent of people are fully vaccinated, compared to 89 per cent of 40- to 49-year-olds and 85 per cent of people in the 30-39 age cohort.
Three-quarters of people aged 18 to 29 have completed their vaccinations, while 83 per cent are partially vaccinated.
Mr Donnelly expressed confidence in the return to school and said public health controls are working. On RTÉ Radio's Today with Claire Byrne show he acknowledged there are "a lot of close contacts and there are a lot of children isolating", but this is due to high rates of the virus in the community, he said.
The high numbers being identified as close contacts is evidence the public health response “is working”. On Monday the HSE’s head of testing and tracing, Niamh O’Beirne, said there were up to 12,000 children out of school due to being identified as a close contact.
Positivity rates are reducing in primary and secondary school age groups, with “encouraging” reductions in the 13-plus cohort due to vaccinations, the Minister said.
He pointed to the falling 14-day incidence rate in Ireland, which stands at 451 confirmed cases per 100,000. The latest data published by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on Tuesday shows the rate of infections leading to September 5th has reduced from 524 cases per 100,000 two weeks prior.
“We’re not out of the woods, but our phased approach is working,” Mr Donnelly said.
Mr Donnelly also expressed concern about delayed non-Covid health care, particularly cancer care, which is set to be an issue for the health service over the coming months. With delays to treatments due to the pandemic, patients will be sicker, older and requiring longer stays in hospital.
Last year’s winter plan was very successful, and a similar approach needs to be taken this winter, while also tackling waiting lists, the Minister said.
Dr Michael Power, HSE national clinical lead of the HSE critical care programme and an intensive care consultant at Beaumont Hospital, pointed to the numbers in ICU hovering between 52 and 61 for the last fortnight. Daily ICU admissions have ranged from two to seven in the same period. At the peak of the pandemic's third wave, there were 330 Covid patients in intensive care on January 24th.
Dr Power said the reported decrease in Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate is “encouraging” but added there are still close to 60 “critically ill” patients in intensive care.
In this Delta wave the illness “remains the same” among those admitted to intensive care, Dr Power told The Irish Times. “They are waiting for more data as to whether there is a relative increase in severity of variants, but in the critical care setting it is the same severe presentation of Covid,” he said.
He said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has "thankfully" changed its recommendation to give the green light for vaccinating women at any stage of their pregnancy.
There were 16 pregnant women, predominantly unvaccinated, admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 between January and the end of August, he said. Dr Power said he would recommend all pregnant women avail of the vaccine because of its benefits in preventing severe disease. He noted there have been no ICU deaths of pregnant women or their babies.
More than 75 per cent of people with the virus in intensive care have not been vaccinated, he said. Of the remaining 25 per cent, most are partially vaccinated, while there have been 10 “breakthrough” cases of fully vaccinated patients who have high-grade immune suppression.
Dr Power said the curve of disease was flattened thanks to the “amazing compliance levels” of the public. Even when travelling to work in ICUs when Covid admissions were surging, he was aware of “everyone doing their bit”, he said.
“People talk about ‘the frontline’; I think the frontline was also some of the actions taken by the people of Ireland,” he said, adding the “amazing response” of nursing colleagues working in intensive care often goes underacknowledged.