Covid: ‘This is going to get worse before it gets better’, says Health Minister

The most pessimistic modelling indicates hospitalisations could rise to 800 to 1,000 per day, Stephen Donnelly said
Covid: ‘This is going to get worse before it gets better’, says Health Minister

Vivienne Clarke

“This is going to get worse before it gets better”, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has warned about rising Covid-19 figures.

The current five-day case average is approximately 1,700, he told RTÉ News at One, adding that he expects today’s cases to be in excess of 2,000.

These higher case numbers will lead to more hospitalisations in the coming weeks and higher numbers requiring ICU treatment, he said.

Mr Donnelly said he had spoken with the country's chief medical officer and they both wanted to emphasise the need for “fantastic collective action” by the public and for everyone to “double down” on what they had done over the last 18 months.

The Government had been advised by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to exercise a “serious note of caution” when it came to the easing of restrictions. This came at a time when there were 482 Covid patients in hospitals with 73 in ICU, he said.

Pessimistic projections

The message was that the country could open up, but it would have to do so carefully. Mr Donnelly repeated a call for anyone who was not yet vaccinated to do so.

He pointed out that at present, only seven per cent of the population was not vaccinated, but two thirds of patients in ICU were unvaccinated. This was putting “a serious burden” on the healthcare system, he said.

The current situation was very different from three weeks ago when the situation was more optimistic.

The most pessimistic modelling indicated that numbers could rise to 800 to 1,000 hospitalisations per day and 150 to 200 in ICU, which would result in the widespread cancellation of other procedures.

With regard to the return to work, Mr Donnelly said that a phased return to work was still operable and that Nphet was encouraging people to exercise common sense. Where possible, employers should give staff the option to continue to work from home, he said.

Compliance

Mr Donnelly called on the hospitality sector to improve compliance rates as data suggested that one third of venues were not compliant, with one out of three diners saying they were not asked for their Covid cert.

The compliance rate needed to be higher, he said, which would help protect customers and staff.

The situation with nightclubs was an anomaly, Mr Donnelly said, and “detailed specifics” would be worked out between Nphet and the sector in the coming days.

The Minister said that an information campaign would commence to instruct people on the correct use of antigen tests, which could be used on asymptomatic close contacts including children over the age of 12.

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