Some 20,000 cases of Covid-19 are expected to be confirmed today, with Ireland set to hit the National Public Health Emergency Team’s worst-case scenario of case numbers before the new year.
The latest data on positive swabs shows 21,847 detected the virus on Thursday – a 49.56 per cent positivity rate on the 44,081 tests carried out.
Hospitalisations rose again on Thursday by more than 50 people, surpassing the 600-patient mark with a total of 619 Covid inpatients. Of these, 88 were in intensive care – a drop of five over the past 24 hours.
In mid-December as the Omicron variant began to take hold in Ireland, Nphet modelling of “pessimistic” scenarios forecast in excess of 20,000 cases per day, with 2,000 people in hospital overall at peak and more than 400 people requiring critical care.
In a letter to Government containing the predictions, Nphet warned that up to one-quarter of the population could be deemed close contacts of a confirmed case during the peak of infections.
Optimistic scenarios forecast a peak between 8,000 and 10,000 daily cases, with 650 to 1,000 people in total in hospital and 150 to 250 people requiring critical care.
Record-breaking cases have surpassed optimistic scenarios in recent days, with the highest daily figure of the pandemic officially reported on Wednesday as 16,428 infections were confirmed.
Test slots book out
Amid surging demand, PCR test slots in Dublin released by the HSE are filling up within 20 seconds, according to the developer of a web application that monitors the booking portal for self-referrals.
William O'Connor, who set up the app to check test slot availability, said the best chance of securing an appointment is after midnight.
“It’s kind of sporadic the way they’re released – a couple of thousand [appointments] seem to come out pretty much on the nose of midnight, but I think the HSE website gets quite a lot of traffic at that time,” he told Newstalk radio.
“This bot, that essentially sends requests to the site to try and figure out if there’s appointments available, sometimes it takes a lot longer for the bot to get a response back, which is basically telling me that the website is under quite a bit of load.
"So it’s probably people trying to get appointments themselves ultimately causing the HSE website to either slow down or potentially become non-responsive.”
True scale of infection
Several experts in infectious diseases warned on Thursday that the true scale of infection in Ireland is unknown amid pressures on the testing system.
Consultant Dr Eoghan de Barra told Newstalk radio that the system simply “can’t cope” with current demand, with the Republic’s seven-day test positivity rate currently standing at 39.4 per cent.
“The testing system is completely full at the moment – I think we all know many people who’ve been up till midnight trying to get PCR slots,” he said.
“We don’t have an idea of demand, or at least the HSE doesn’t release... how many clicks they’re actually getting to try and get slots – so there are probably many, many more infections out there that either can’t get a test, are not going to bother getting a follow-on test, or indeed have such minimal symptoms that they’re not going to get [tested].”
It comes as the chief medical officer has urged every member of the public to consider themselves potentially infectious following the record case numbers confirmed on Wednesday.