The Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has warned that the Irish health system “will not continue to cope” with the continuously rising number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19.
His comments come as a further 504 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised on Friday, of which 47 are in ICU.
A total of 1,754 cases were confirmed nationally, of which 296 were recorded in Cork, compared to the 73 cases recorded in Cork on New Year’s Eve.
The 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population for Cork from December 18 to December 31 stands at 289.9 with a total of 1,574 cases recorded in Cork in the same 14-day period.
An additional 11 deaths related to Covid-19 was also confirmed by the Department of Health.
Dr Holohan said the “most concerning trend at present is the rapidly increasing number of people being admitted to hospital” with between 50 to 70 people being admitted each day.
“Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better. Our health system will not continue to cope with this level of impact,” he said.
A significant increase in positive laboratory tests have also been seen in recent days, which he said reflects a true increase in the incidence of the disease as well as the delay in people coming forward for testing over the Christmas period.
Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, said that a large volume of positive tests in recent days means there is a delay in formal reporting with in excess of 9,000 additional new cases set to be reported over the coming days.
Dr Holohan said that each individual needs to observe the Government’s guidelines and “stay at home other than for essential work or care”.
On Thursday, he confirmed that close contacts of confirmed cases were no longer advised to get tested as the virus is now widespread in communities with everyone asked 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,” he said.
Explaining what has changed for those confirmed a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus, Cork GP and Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Nuala O’Connor, said that the only thing that has changed is that close contacts will not be tested.
She said that people who are confirmed to be a close contact must still restrict their movements for 14 days in order to stop the potential spread of Covid-19 as it can take up to 14 days after exposure to develop the virus.
“If you were identified as a close contact in the last week and do not have a test appointment already you will get a text to explain you will not now be tested but to continue restrict movements for 14 days.
“Anyone who has a test appointment should get the test done. Anyone who develops symptoms please self isolate,” Dr O’Connor said.
People who develop symptoms are urged to contact their GP to be referred for testing but people have also been warned not to fake symptoms in order to obtain a test.
“Please don’t pretend you have symptoms to get tested. It won’t change what you need to do and delay testing for those who have symptoms. 14 days restriction applies even if you were to test negative,” she said.
She explained that the change in how people are being tested is because “there is so much Covid in the community we must all act as if we were infected” and that we can get the virus under control again, but only if “we all stay at home unless essential to go out to exercise”.