The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended pausing the reopening of indoor hospitality, outlining a worst-case scenario in which there could be almost 700,000 new cases of Covid-19 over the next three months.
The recommendation was made during a late night meeting on Monday with the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid.
The Government is set to make a decision later on Tuesday on the return of indoor drinking and dining from July 5th.
Projections by Nphet on the impact of the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant were described by Government sources as “grim” and “sobering”.
The worst-case scenario would potentially see almost 700,000 cases of the virus over July, August and September, with as many as 2,170 deaths as the Delta variant becomes dominant. The most optimistic projection would see 81,000 cases and 165 deaths.
The Irish Times reports that the modelling estimated almost 13,000 hospital admissions over the three months, and more than 1,600 people in intensive care units should the most pessimistic scenario play out. One source told The Irish Times this would see hospitals “overrun”.
It is understood Nphet warned that a high level of transmission could also have a significant impact on the reopening of schools in September.
Nphet recommended pausing the reopening of indoor hospitality until Government comes up with an “enforceable” system to prove people have been vaccinated.
However, Nphet also recommended that the numbers attending wedding celebrations indoors in July could increase from 25 to 50.
Liam Fanning, a professor of immunovirology at University College Cork, called for a full independent analysis of the Nphet projections of Covid cases and deaths in the coming months.
Prof Fanning told Newstalk radio on Tuesday morning that data from drug trials was independently scrutinised and he thought the “worst case” scenario data presented by Nphet should also be independently analysed.
“We don’t need smoke and mirrors, we need the data to be given to people who can fully validate it,” he said.
On Monday Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ radio that it would be “very difficult” for the Government to go against advice that Nphet issues on the reopening and “very unlikely” it would do so.
A separate recommendation by the Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on Monday said the AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines could be used for the under-40s.
It also said that the gap between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine can be cut in half from eight to four weeks.
This would allow an acceleration of the vaccine rollout to younger age groups that had been previously restricted to alternative vaccines due to a link between rare blood clots and the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has already asked the HSE to put the recommendation into operation.