The Department of Health has been notified of a further 4,141 cases of Covid-19 as the Minister for Health confirmed on Thursday that the Omicron variant now accounts for 27 per cent of all new cases.
As of 8am on Thursday morning, 443 people were in hospital with Covid-19, of which 105 were in ICU.
According to the Department of Health, the total number of Omicron cases has been revised down to 39.
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) December 16, 2021
Earlier on Thursday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly updated the Dáil about the prevalence of the new Omicron variant in Ireland.
“Last week the Omicron variant made up about 1 per cent of all new cases in Ireland. By the weekend it was up to 5 per cent,” Mr Donnelly said.
“On Tuesday, the rate reported was 14 per cent. Today, just two days later, I can confirm to the House that the Omicron variant now comprised over 27 per cent of all new cases.”
Speaking about the latest Covid-19 variant, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned it meant a “significant wave” was coming.
“We’re in a different phase, a very significant wave coming. And I think we have to be intelligent in terms of how we combat that.”
Vaccines for children
At a briefing on Thursday, HSE chief Paul Reid said that vaccinations would begin for high-risk children aged five to 11 next week.The portal for another two high-risk groups in those aged five to 11 will open on December 28th.
Vaccinations for those groups will take place on January 3rd. The remaining five- to 11-year-olds will commence in the week of January 10th.
Mr Reid said that the public’s response to restrictions was starting to take effect on the health services.
“We should take good confidence from the recent reaction from the public, which has made a very significant impact for us, based on their actions,” Mr Reid added.
For the first time in many weeks, we’re seeing consistency and trend down in hospitalisations.
“Ultimately, overall we’re at 443 Covid patients in hospital this morning, which is 18 per cent down on last week, and in ICU 105 patients mid-morning.
“We need to see a continued downward trend because the base level that we’re at puts us at extremely high risk levels, if any levels of predictions related to Omicron emerge as true.
“So it would be an extremely high level to go into a wave of Omicron.”
HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said: “There’s much talk about a weakened link between harm and cases, but we know from the Delta variant, if you have enough cases ultimately some of them will always translate into harm, whether it’s hospitalisation, or ICU.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed in the Dáil that people in their 40s will begin to receive appointments for their booster shots next week.
This comes as Mr Reid has said that Wednesday was the largest daily booster vaccination number, with 50,000 doses administered.
The chief executive of the HSE said that 1.35 million booster jabs had been administered to date.
He set out the HSE’s revised plan to expand the booster programme, to speed up the number of vaccines in the coming weeks and months.
According to Mr Reid, the plan aimed to mitigate “to the greatest extent” the projected effect of the Omicron variant.
“The revised plan is geared towards increased capacity, supporting us accelerating all age groups forward than originally planned, and equally putting in additional options for the public through various different channels to receive a vaccination.
“From a capacity point of view, while we’re putting in place our extended hours of the centres, all centres all across the country will now move to 12-hour days; 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
“They will have a combination of appointments and walk-in clinics.
“We’ve redeployed very significant staffs across the health service, and indeed continued our recruitment overall. We’ve had further supports from the Defence Forces.
“We’ve had a request to go out across all of the other Government departments and public service agencies for some further support and admin support.
“We are increasing the capacity of our existing sites, with some extra bays and extra vaccinators going in. And we’re also putting in some extra sites at the Richmond Barracks (Dublin), the RDS and in Cork City.”
As many as 1,300 GPs are expected to be participating in the programme. The HSE also expects to have 700 pharmacies delivering jabs by the end of the week.
-Additional reporting by PA