Total of 18 deaths from Covid-19 recorded in the State last week

A further 2,051 Covid-19 cases confirmed as Tony Holohan says ‘high incidence’ in 16-29 age group

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged anyone returning to school or college to be especially vigilant. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged anyone returning to school or college to be especially vigilant. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

There were 18 deaths in the last week as a result of Covid-19, according to the latest figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

This is three more than the 15 deaths recorded in the week up to August 18th.

It brings to 5,092 the number of people who have died with Covid-19 in the State since March 2020.

Since the HSE data breach in May, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has stopped recording deaths from Covid-19 on a daily basis and is instead releasing the figures on a weekly basis.

The number of average deaths a day in the State from Covid-19 is 2.5 at present. At the peak of the first wave in April 2020 it was more than 70 a day.

Earlier on Wednesday it emerged the HPSC had been notified of 2,051 confirmed cases of Covid-19. As of 8am on Wednesday, 323 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 56 were in ICU.

There has been a total of 5,092 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said more than 70 per cent of cases were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people and there was a high incidence of the virus in adults and teenagers aged 16-29.

“While we have increasing levels of vaccination across the population, we continue to have significant concerns over the Delta variant and the increase in the incidence of disease across a range of factors. Unfortunately, this variant is still circulating widely,” Dr Holohan said.

“Over 70 per cent of cases are in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people and we are seeing a high incidence of Covid-19 in adults and teenagers aged 16-29.

“If you haven’t yet registered for your vaccine or have delayed receiving your second dose, please do so as soon as possible. We know that vaccines work. They are about 80 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 disease and they provide approximately 95 per cent protection against hospitalisation.

“It is very important that we remain vigilant and continue to follow the public health measures that we are all so familiar with. This is especially important for anyone who is soon to return to school and college.

“Continue to wear a mask, wash your hands properly and often, maintain a social distance, manage your contacts and avoid crowds.”

Earlier, Laois County Council has said there is “no provision in law” to enable it to revisit its refusal of an event licence for Electric Picnic.

Dr Holohan said on Tuesday that he would have no concerns about an outdoor event like Electric Picnic taking place if attendance was limited to the fully vaccinated.

He also suggested that only vaccinated people should be allowed to go the forthcoming GAA All-Ireland football final.

However, there is no legal basis for restricting outdoor events to fully vaccinated people because the existing legislation that permits restricting access to venues to only those who are vaccinated only covers indoor premises.

Amid Dr Holohan’s comments, Caroline Downey, director at MCD, had said they had reapplied to Laois County Council for permission to run the festival, and had hoped to hear an answer by the close of business on Wednesday as they are “running out of time”.

However, Laois County Council has said it cannot revisit the decision to refuse a licence to Electric Picnic.

A statement said the original decision at the start of August to refuse permission was based on advice from the HSE in their statutory submission and having regard to the Government public health measures in place.

“There is no provision in law which enables Laois County Council to revisit that refusal or reconsider that application,” the statement said.

“Notwithstanding the comments emanating from yesterday’s press briefing from Nphet nothing has changed as regards advice from the HSE, nor has there been any change to the Government public health measures in place in respect of hosting of outdoor events, from the position that pertained on [August 4th].

“The planning authority, Laois County Council, further notes that even if a new application for an event licence is made, the statutory timelines do not allow for the processing of a new application to facilitate the event on the dates as intended in the application previously submitted.”

Legislation

The legislation introduced in July to allow for indoor dining and pubs to operate for people with vaccine certificates only mentions “indoor premises” and “indoor social activities”, and would have to be entirely amended to cover outdoor events. There are no plans currently to amend the legislation, which is due to expire on October 9th.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) began meeting at 11am on Wednesday to formulate its advice to Government before the Cabinet finalises its plans for the phased easing of remaining Covid restrictions.

On Wednesday morning Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it is unlikely there will be any changes to the Covid-19 rules for attending GAA matches in the coming weeks.

He was responding to the suggestion from Dr Holohan that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to attend large outdoor events such as the All-Ireland football final, where the crowd capacity has been set at 40,000.

Mr Donnelly also said that although there was a “lot of merit” in Dr Holohan’s comments about Electric Picnic, it was not fair to the entertainment sector to speculate about the possibility of events going ahead for the fully vaccinated. This needed to be discussed at Cabinet, he said.

Mr Donnelly told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland he would be surprised if there was a change in rules before this weekend’s football semi-final or the final on September 11th.

Mr Donnelly said last Sunday’s All Ireland hurling final seemed to have been a well-run event “within the stadium” but that he had been concerned about the scenes of people socialising in large groups afterwards.

The Minister encouraged anyone who feared they may have been in a high-risk group to get a PCR test to give themselves peace of mind.

On Tuesday Dr Holohan gave a strong indication Nphet would endorse plans for further reopening, saying he was “optimistic” the country would be in a position to move on from some of the current restrictions “in the near term”.

However, he warned the next phase of the reopening would only be safe for people who had been vaccinated, and suggested that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to attend events such as the All-Ireland football final.

Delta surge

There were 310 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Tuesday evening, up from 304 Covid patients on Monday night. On Tuesday, there were 55 Covid-19 patients in ICU including 25 on ventilators.

Mr Donnelly said indications showed the peak of the current Delta surge will come in the next four to six weeks. After meeting with Nphet, the Cabinet will meet next week and draw up a plan on easing Covid restrictions.

There is a growing expectation that restrictions will be eased considerably when the plan for the next phase of reopening is announced, though some sources say that some reopening measures will not be scheduled until later in the month, and may be confined to those who are vaccinated.

Measures such as mask wearing, cough etiquette and social distancing could be required for some time, said Mr Donnelly.

It was very difficult to say for how long restrictions would be required as there could be further Covid-19 variants, but based on the success of the vaccination programme, the Minister felt that restrictions could be eased by Christmas.

Mr Donnelly also said the requirement for Covid certs to enter pubs and bars had gone well so far despite political opposition and a similar plan could be used for large-scale events.

“There’s a lot of merit to it, the risk goes down. The entertainment industry has had a brutal time. We want to do everything we can to open up safely.”