The chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry has expressed concern about exhausted healthcare staff. He urged the public to “do your bit” – to stay at home, reduce socialisation and get the booster vaccine – to help reduce cases.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Dr Henry said that the number of staff absent from work in relation to Covid had reduced from 5,000 to 3,000.
However, he said he was concerned about staff who were exhausted and the constant vigilance under which they had to work, the time it took to don PPE gear, and how they had to physically distance themselves.
“It is very difficult,” he added.
Efforts by the public in recent weeks had helped stabilise figures, but the numbers were going up again because of the Omicron variant, he warned.
“We’ve learned a hard lesson about not acting early.”
Dr Henry said there was some initial cause for optimism for reports from South Africa that indicated the Omicron variant caused less severe symptoms. But the newer data had to be scrutinised, he said. There was a hunger to know the impact of Omicron, he explained.
Even though early indications were that there was a reduction in hospitalisations from the Omicron variant, it was still unknown what level of hospitalisations would be likely to need intensive care treatment, he said.
It was “infuriating” that there was a lag in such information, added Dr Henry.
Covid-19 would eventually become endemic, he said, and regular vaccines will become a part of life.
“It is endemic now, we are dealing with a variant that is highly transmissible.
“This is an extraordinary surge of a variant that only came to light in South Africa in late November. No system anywhere in the world could absorb the demands in that short time.”