Positive signs but Covid incidence still high – NPHET

The National Public Health Emergency Team has warned that despite solid evidence that the coronavirus is being suppressed, the incidence of the disease remains exceptionally high.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that despite the recent reduction in case numbers the burden of infection is still ten times higher today than it was in early December when Level 5 restrictions were last eased.

He said everyone needs to work together to drive the infection down and bring the disease under control. 

The incidence of Covid-19 is high across all age groups but is exceptionally high in those aged 85 and older.

Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid said that 66% of patients – 211 cases – in ICUs around the country have Covid-19.

In a tweet, he also said that 300 people are receiving respiratory support outside of ICUs.

However, the numbers in hospital are starting to decrease and the numbers in intensive care units have plateaued.

Chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said last night that the incidence of the disease is now declining by 7 to 10% per day, and at that rate it could be halved in seven to ten days.

But he warned that it will be difficult to maintain that pace, especially since the new more highly transmissible strain of the virus first identified in the UK now accounts for 62% all our cases, and is increasing.

There are now 480 open Covid-19 outbreaks in hospitals and long-term residential care institutions including 166 nursing homes.

Latest coronavirus stories

Yesterday, the Department of Health reported 51 new deaths and 2,608 further cases of Covid-19.

There have been a total of 54,318 coronavirus cases confirmed in the last two weeks.

Prof Nolan said the R number is estimated to be between 0.5 and 0.8, but said this is going to be difficult to sustain.

In a letter to the Government last week, Dr Holohan warned that there could be at least 1,000 Covid-19 related deaths in January.

In the letter, dated 14 January, Dr Holohan said modelling by NPHET showed that there could be at least 25-30 deaths a day related to community outbreaks.