Covid cases hit record high for second day running at 20,554

The new daily case figure breaks the previous high of 16,428 announced on Wednesday.
Covid cases hit record high for second day running at 20,554

Tomas Doherty

Daily coronavirus cases have hit a record high for the second consecutive day as the Taoiseach warned that the Omicron variant remains a “serious threat”.

Figures published by the Department of Health on Thursday confirmed a further 20,554 infections in the Republic.

The new daily case figure breaks the previous high of 16,428 announced on Wednesday.

The chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said it was the fourth time this week a new record number of daily infections had been announced.

He urged people not to mix indoors with people from other households.

“The most effective way to minimise the risk of any of us transmitting this virus to others is to avoid mixing indoors with people from other households,” he said. “I know this is not the advice any one of us wants to hear, particularly in advance of New Year celebrations.”

In a tweet, Micheál Martin said Covid was continuing to spread rapidly, and he urged people to get a booster vaccination as soon as possible.

Daily figures released earlier by the HSE showed 21,847 positive “swabs” with a positivity rate of 49.56 per cent.

The seven-day positivity rate for confirmed Covid diagnosis is at 39.4 per cent – a record high.

Covid-related hospital admissions have also risen sharply this week.

On Thursday patient numbers jumped by more than 50, surpassing the 600-mark to reach a total of 619 Covid inpatients. Of these, 88 were in intensive care – a drop of five over the past 24 hours.

Dr Holohan confirmed that in the last 24 hours, 148 people with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a ‘detected’ test result while in hospital. “Hospitalisations at this level are not sustainable and are having a significant impact on our health service,” he said.

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.

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. “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 urged every member of the public to consider themselves potentially infectious following record case numbers confirmed on Wednesday.

Northern Ireland

In the North, another 4,701 cases of the virus were confirmed on Thursday. There were 303 Covid-positive patients in hospital in the region, of whom 32 were in intensive care.

No further Covid-19 restrictions are set to be imposed in the North following a virtual meeting of the Stormont Executive on Thursday.

First Minister Paul Givan said ministers agreed that no further restrictions should be introduced at this time.

The Executive also agreed that the self-isolation period for confirmed Covid-19 cases will be reduced from 10 days to seven in line with England and Wales.

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