Ireland at Covid ‘tipping point’ as vaccine benefit still six weeks away

The HSE's Anne O'Connor said projections on the impact of case numbers, without the vaccine rollout, are 'worrying' for May
Ireland at Covid ‘tipping point’ as vaccine benefit still six weeks away

The coronavirus situation is at a “real tipping point” in Ireland as the benefit of vaccinations against higher case numbers will not be felt for another six to eight weeks, according to a senior health service official.

Anne O’Connor, chief operations officer of the HSE, said new modelling by the health service shows that hospitals can cope with about 500 daily Covid-19 cases if the vaccine rollout continues as planned with an increase in the numbers being immunised in the coming weeks.

“We have got about a six-to-eight week window where we have to manage this very, very carefully. Potentially, if the vaccination programme keeps going as it is – and we are hoping to do that – we should be okay. We are watching it very carefully,” she told The Irish Times.

Projections on the impact of case numbers, without the vaccine rollout, on hospitals are “worrying” for May based on the 1.2 reproduction number, which shows the virus is spreading.

“The thing that will ameliorate that will be the ongoing rollout of the vaccination programme. That is the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ms O’Connor.

'Serious trouble'

She said that if increased community cases translated into more hospital admissions, the health system would be “in serious trouble” because the level of scheduled care has increased.

Vaccinations have reduced the level of serious illness and deaths, she said.

“The evidence would suggest that once you get another six weeks, the vaccination programme – if it goes according to plan – would give us far more reason for optimism and we would feel that the system is able to manage,” she said.

The National Public Health Emergency Team reported a further death and 539 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, bringing total deaths to 4,667 and the number of confirmed cases to 235,078.

Almost three-quarters of the newly infected people were under 45 years old and the median age was 32. Offaly had the highest incidence rate with 455.4 people for every 100,000 people infected, followed by Donegal with 282 and Dublin with 249.

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