Covid-19 cases could increase to 2,000 a day within a period of four weeks, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has warned the Government.
The Irish Times reports that the public health officials issued the warning in a letter to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Monday night.
The officials warned that current infection levels are twice the level they were when restrictions were eased at Christmas, and “50 times that in late June 2020” as the country emerged from its first lockdown.
The Government has agreed to ease lockdown restrictions in the State from April 12th, with a current five-day average of more than 600 daily cases.
In the letter, Nphet informed the Government that Ireland does not have the same “headroom” that was available last summer when case numbers were low and that the situation remains “precarious”.
The team said this was due to three reasons — a high level of infection and daily cases, a more transmissible variant and a reproductive number already estimated to be at or above 1.
Nphet said the dominance of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant means that viral transmissions and the effective reproduction number “will be 30-70 per cent greater than in 2020.”
“The high starting point of 600 cases per day means that case numbers rise rapidly to over 2,000 per day within 4 weeks,” the team wrote, describing a modelling scenario based on the reproductive number increasing to 1.6.
500,000 cases to September
Meanwhile, it is also understood that new modelling presented to Government on Monday night shows the vaccination programme will begin to reduce risk from May, and suppress cases through June and into August.
Projections have been made for between 80,000 and 500,000 Covid-19 cases between April 5th and the end of September, sources said, depending on the level of socialisation that takes place.
The modelling shows that vaccines will reduce hospitalisations more rapidly than numbers of infections and cases.
The Government was warned that the next eight weeks represent a “critical window” where any significant increase in indoor social mixing would give rise to another wave of the virus.
On Tuesday evening, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the Cabinet had agreed a phased easing of Covid-19 restrictions during the month of April and beyond.
- From April 12th, two households will be able to meet outdoors for social and recreational purposes and the 5km travel limit will lift to allow people to travel within their county for exercise and recreation.
- From April 19th, some additional high-level sport will return, including senior inter-county GAA training, to facilitate the return of the National League in May.
- From April 26th, there will be a return of outdoor sports training for under-18s, along with golf and outdoor tennis, while outdoor visitor attractions like zoos and wildlife parks will reopen and funeral attendance will increase to 25.
Speaking after the announcement, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the Government’s new measures would see the country through the coming weeks to “brighter days and better times ahead”.
“By July, 80 per cent of adults will hopefully have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.
“This will change things fundamentally. We can and should be hopeful and optimistic of an enjoyable summer that’s much better than what we’ve experienced over the past six months.”