True number of Covid cases likely much higher than record 16,000, says expert

'If you don’t want to get Covid, then don’t be in mixed gatherings'
True number of Covid cases likely much higher than record 16,000, says expert

Vivienne Clarke

Ireland’s “true” Covid-19 case numbers are likely much higher than the record 16,000 infections confirmed last night, according to an infectious diseases expert.

16,428 cases were reported on Wednesday, representing the highest daily figure since the pandemic began just under two years ago.

Close to half of the latest swabs taken detected the virus, as test positivity rates have soared to record levels. The Republic’s seven-day test positivity rate now stands at 34.9 per cent as the testing system struggles to meet demand.

Dr Cliona Ní Cheallaigh, an infectious diseases expert, said the testing system at present was “maxed out” and it was difficult to get appointments.

In such circumstances it was very likely that the “true” number of cases was much higher than the figure recorded on Wednesday, which was “a pretty staggering number,” she said.

‘Don’t be in mixed gatherings’

If someone did not want to contract the virus, then they should not mix at house parties, in restaurants or pubs, Dr Ní Cheallaigh told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

At these locations, where people were mixing without masks, it was “very likely” that someone would already have the virus, she said.

“If you don’t want to get Covid, then don’t be in mixed gatherings,” Dr Ní Cheallaigh warned.

With Covid levels so high it was “sensible” to advise anyone with symptoms or a positive antigen test result to behave as if they did have the virus, she said.

It was also sensible to reduce the number of days of isolation to seven for anyone who was a close contact, asymptomatic and had a negative antigen test result, she said, as the health service and essential services needed staff.

Her comments follow reports that the isolation period for cases and close contacts may reduce to five days in Ireland, with a number of senior Ministers of the view that the State should follow the lead of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.

The CDC this week reduced the number of days of self-isolation for positive Covid-19 cases from 10 days to five, as long as they are asymptomatic. It also reduced the quarantine period for close contacts.

Public health officials in Ireland are also considering changes to the testing system, with one option under examination to make greater use of antigen testing to confirm cases in the general population.

The chief medical officer has urged every member of the public to consider themselves potentially infectious following the record case numbers confirmed on Wednesday.

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