Serious illness and death from Covid-19 plummeting amid vaccine rollout, data shows

Four deaths and 425 new cases of coronavirus reported in the State on Friday

A man walks past part of the ‘IN THESE STRANGE TIMES: an evolving series created in response to the pandemic’ exhibition at the Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A man walks past part of the ‘IN THESE STRANGE TIMES: an evolving series created in response to the pandemic’ exhibition at the Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The proportion of people suffering serious illness and death from Covid-19 is plummeting as more people are vaccinated, new data shows.

The new data came to light on Friday, when a further four deaths and 435 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

It was known already that vaccination has cut the number of cases of the disease but the data presented by the Nphet points for the first time to its impact in cutting the severity of disease.

Throughout the pandemic, the general rule was that for every 1,000 cases, 50 people would be hospitalised, five would be admitted to ICU and 10 would die.

However, since early April, this rule has started to change, according to Nphet official Prof Philip Nolan.

Deaths have fallen from 10 to one per 1,000 cases, hospitalisations are down to 30 and ICU numbers have fallen to two per 1,000 cases.

Analysis of the data by age shows the impact of vaccination. Among over-85s, the first cohort to be immunised, the risk of a case being admitted to hospital has fallen from 60 per cent to 35-40 per cent. Among 75-80 year olds, the risk has dropped from 30-40 per cent to 20 per cent.

The risk of death among older people from Covid-19 has also fallen dramatically.

Covid statistics

The four deaths of Covid-19 patients reported on Friday brings to 4,941 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

One of the deaths occurred in January, one in February and two in May.

Nphet also reported 425 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 254,870 the total number of cases in the Republic.

The median age of cases is 29 years and 78 per cent are under 45.

The reproduction number, a measure of how many other people a case infects, now stands at “slightly below one,” according to Prof Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group.

The epidemiological situation remains stable and there are “strong grounds for optimism,” Prof Nolan said.

The number of cases fell 9 per cent last week, the growth rate of the disease is zero to -2 per cent and test positivity remains low, he said. Increases among young people after schools re-opened have proven to be transient.

Among older people, cases have plummeted, with an almost 10-fold reduction in cases among over-85s.

“Disease incidence is stable and we are seeing improvements in some indicators. Hospital and ICU admissions are decreasing slowly, the 7 day moving average is reduced, the 5-day moving average is stable, the national positivity rate has reduced to 2.4 per cent and incidence among all age groups is reducing.”

“The data also reveals the positive effects of vaccination, not only incidence in the over 65 age groups below the national average and rapidly declining, but we are seeing a very large reduction in the probability of being hospitalised or dying. It is clear vaccination not only decreases infection but also decreases the severity of any disease that breaks through.”

In Northern Ireland there have been no further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for coronavirus.The Department of Health notified 96 new positive cases of the virus.

On Friday morning there were 39 inpatients in hospital who tested positive for Covid-19, of whom three were in intensive care.

Graduation ceremonies

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said it would not be possible for graduation ceremonies and the like to take place in schools this year.

“It is very important that all students preparing to sit state exams in June take the necessary precautions now to ensure you do not contract Covid-19, particularly in the last remaining days before the commencement of the Leaving Cert. Do not attend graduation ceremonies or events. Take this time to restrict your social contacts and continue to follow the public health advice.”

Asked whey Kildare has recently had the highest county incidence, Dr Glynn said the situation was coming under control. In addition to a large outbreak – on the Intel construction site – there have been small clusters in workplaces and schools.

By Tuesday 1,922,913 doses of vaccine had been administered – 1,408,105 first doses and 514,808 second doses.

The ransomware attack on the HSE will impede the ability of the health service to organise effective testing and to measure the total number of cases, according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

However, the incident should not distract people from the basic public health messages that protect against infection. Patients with symptoms should self-isolate and attend one of the HSE’s self-testing centres, he said.

“We haven’t switched off testing and there no reason to think the public will deviate from their behaviour,” he said.

Antigen testing

Nphet officials restated their concerns about antigen testing. Dr Holohan said he strongly recommended against their use by the general public.

Ireland was “weeks away” from restarting economic activities, many of which will not need antigen testing to do so, he said.

According to assistant chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn, up to 40,000 antigen tests were carried out in the meat industry, resulting in 14 positives, though this included a number of false positives.

He said the feedback was that the tests were very labour intensive due to consent and education issues.

Head of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Dr Cillian de Gascun described claims that antigen tests pick up people who are infectious as a “false narrative”.

The number of Irish cases of the B1.617.2 variant, first identified in India, has risen to 41. Dr de Gascun described this rise as a concern.