By Dominic McGrath, PA
A further 3,138 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, with Ireland set to face a “difficult” few weeks amid a surge in infections.
The country's deputy chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said that it was possible Ireland could record 200,000 cases of Covid-19 in December.
“Our entire health system, from public health to general practice to our acute hospitals, is stretched and non-Covid care – including cancer surgery, cardiac care, hip and knee replacements, mental ill health and all of the common ailments that if identified and treated properly may be prevented from deteriorating further – continues to be severely impacted,” he said in a video posted on Twitter on Friday.
Our modelling suggests that we will record upwards of 200,000 cases of #COVID19 in December.
This is not inevitable. These people have not yet been infected and, together, we can avoid this case load and ensuing impact on our Health Service.
— Dr Ronan Glynn (@ronan_glynn) November 19, 2021
Separately on Friday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said "anyone who is going to get Covid-19 in December has not yet been infected."
"Their infection is not inevitable and there is still time to prevent it by small changes in our behaviour," he said.
Dr Holohan urged anyone with symptoms to stay home, self-isolate and get a PCR test – not an antigen test.
Household contacts of a confirmed case meanwhile must restrict their movements and stay at home for five days, while Dr Holohan urged the general public to "minimise our chances of coming into contact with the virus by reducing the number of people we meet and layering up on the public health advice - vaccine/booster, clean hands, masks, open windows, avoid crowds, work from home unless absolutely necessary."
Dr Glynn also said that 200,000 cases was not “inevitable” and asked people to follow public health advice.
He added: “The next few weeks will be difficult for everybody.
“But by sticking with these basic measures, we can avoid the worst impacts of this current wave and ensure that we continue to protect to the greatest extent possible those who are most vulnerable within our communities.”
The latest warnings from senior health officials comes days after the Government introduced new measures that it hopes will curb the spread of Covid-19.
This includes ordering that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants in Ireland should now have a midnight closing time, while people are also being asked to work from home if possible.
On Friday, chief executive of the University of Limerick Hospital Group Colette Cowan said that she expected elective care to be stood down midway through next week as her staff grapple with the fourth wave of the virus.
She said that by next Wednesday, she believed that all elective procedures will be paused as the hospital group prepares for a surge in Covid-19 patients.
“At the moment, we look at our elective work every week. We look after time-sensitive care and cancer surgery for sure, on site,” she told RTÉ radio.
“If we can manage to flex the ICU beds and have enough to treat the critically ill, we will work through that.”
She said that the intensive care unit in the hospital is currently full, creating extra pressure for staff. If Ireland did see 200,000 cases in December, she warned it would “collapse” health services.
“It would cause a collapse of the health services and I don’t mean to be stark,” she said.
“We can manage to a certain level, but alongside that we also have a lot of people attending the emergency department for treatments for other illnesses.”
As of Friday morning, there were 643 Covid-19 patients hospitalised in Ireland, with 118 in intensive care.