It has been projected that 700 to 1,000 people will be hospitalsed with Covid-19 in New Year as people are urged to do all they can “to ensure as few families as possible” are impacted.
It comes as the Department of Health has confirmed 1,620 new cases of Covid-19 and 12 additional deaths related to Covid-19.
There are now a total of 91,779 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and there has been a total of 2,237 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland.
Of the cases notified today, 73 are in Cork.
The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population in Cork from December 17 to December 30 stands at 241.7, and has almost tripled since last week when the 14-day incidence rate up to December 23 was 98.6.
There have been a total of 1,312 cases in Cork in the 14-day period up to December 30.
Last week, there had been 535 cases recorded in the 14-day period up to December 23.
The remaining cases reported today were recorded in Dublin which had 498 cases, there were 203 cases in Limerick, 89 in Galway, 67 in Mayo and the remaining 690 cases are spread across all other counties.
794 of today’s cases are men and 819 are women with 65% under 45 years of age. The median age is 34 years old.
As of 2pm today, 490 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 42 are in ICU. Seven days ago, there were 255 Covid-19 patients hospitalised, of which 22 were in ICU.
There have been an additional 58 hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said that the country is “once again in the mitigation stage of this pandemic”.
The alarming escalation in the incidence of the virus in the general population gives great cause for concern. This disease is now widespread in our communities and as a result we are asking everyone to behave as if they are a close contact.
“To support the testing system through this surge, we are no longer advising close contacts of confirmed cases to get tested. Testing and tracing is an exercise in containment and we are no longer in a containment phase.
“However, it is imperative that if you are a close contact of a confirmed case you restrict your movements and contact your GP immediately if you develop symptoms.
“The average number of contacts per case has risen from 2.5 in November to an average in recent days of 6.3. This is very far from where we need to be and I am appealing to everyone at every age to adhere to the mandated restrictions that the government has introduced – stay at home, except for essential reasons, other than for exercise up to 5km,” he said.
Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, Dr Colm Henry, said that the pressure on our public health system, including testing and tracing services “is not sustainable”.
“A collective response by every individual, across every county, to follow the public health advice is essential to address the recent acceleration in case numbers that we are now seeing.
“The reintroduction of Level 5 restrictions is essential to protect our vital public services such as hospital admissions and non-COVID care and to have the maximum impact in the shortest possible time frame to minimise the spread of this disease,” he said.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, warned that we are not powerless against the virus and that “the best tool we have right now is each other”.
We have shown on multiple occasions that we can act collectively to break chains of transmission, reduce the intensity of this epidemic and slow down the increase in cases.
He said that we remember the 2,237 people who have lost their lives to the virus as we look to the New Year and urged people to do all they can “to ensure as few families as possible are similarly impacted in 2021.
The reproduction number is at least 1.6-1.8 with the daily growth rate estimated now at 7% to 10% giving a doubling time of 7 to 10 days or less.
Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, said the epidemiological situation is “very serious and the virus is spreading rapidly amongst all age groups, increasing the risk to those most vulnerable to severe infection, such as the medically vulnerable and people over 60 years of age”.
“We project significant further increase in cases and hospitalisations in the coming days before public health measures take effect and are likely to see over 700 to 1000 people in hospital with Covid-19 early in the New Year.
“While it is difficult to face into further restrictions, it is vital that everyone plays their part by following the public health advice to protect those most vulnerable in the population,” he said.
The rollout of the vaccination programme which is currently underway will focus on vaccinating residents of nursing homes and front line healthcare staff.
Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, Professor Karina Butler, said that once additional Covid-19 vaccines have been authorised, it will be possible to increase the capacity of vaccine availability across the country.
“The vaccine is a vital tool in our strategy to protect us against Covid-19 infection and it goes hand in hand with the public health measures on handwashing, social distancing and staying at home.
“We need to hold firm now and collectively we can bring the virus numbers down swiftly and protect our vital public services,” she said.