Ireland logged 23,702 new cases of Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, as a doctor urged politicians to get the message out to the public that basic mitigation measures are needed to flatten a second surge of Omicron.
7,729 cases were confirmed by PCR test, while 15,973 people registered a positive antigen test result through the HSE portal.
Dr Ray Walley, a member of the Covid-19 GP Liaison Committee, said ventilation, masks, hand washing and keeping distance are all important to combat the new BA2 sub-variant of Omicron which is “highly infectious.”
“The message needs to go out to older people that they are vulnerable,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. The 150,000 immunocompromised people in the country also needed to be alerted, he added.
The number of patients being treated in intensive care units (ICU) for the disease jumped on Tuesday, rising from 49 to 61 patients in 24 hours. General hospitalisations have been climbing steadily, with 1,338 confirmed cases in the hospital system on Tuesday.
Dr Walley said that while not everyone who was infected became very ill, just a small percentage of the high numbers being infected was overwhelming the hospital system.
Masks work, he said, and can reduce the level of infection in the country. People were not testing and not isolating, he added, which was a concern.
“The last line of defence is the vaccine, there’s nothing after that,” he said.
Second Omicron wave
Ireland is in the midst of a second wave of the Omicron variant, logging almost 64,000 new cases of Covid-19 over the extended bank holiday weekend.
The positivity rate of PCR testing has soared to 45.5 per cent, while antigen tests are now identifying the bulk of new cases amid a major scaling-back of the country's test and trace system.
Amid the climbing hospital numbers, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) called on Monday for emergency measures to be introduced to allow hospitals to cope with chronic overcrowding and surging case numbers.
The INMO said restrictions on elective care should remain in place until at least Easter, and also urged the Government to revisit its decision on mask wearing in indoor and crowded settings.
However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said today that there are no plans to reintroduce Covid-19 restrictions or mandatory mask wearing despite the rapid rise in cases.
Speaking before a meeting of the Cabinet, he said: “At the moment, there is no public health advice being given to us that we should reintroduce masks or re-impose restrictions in any way. Unless that comes, we’re not going to do it. We don’t anticipate it.
“It was always expected that when restrictions were eased, that there would be an increase in infections. That will fall off over the next couple of weeks.”
It comes after a public health expert warned Ireland will need to continue to use “reasonable precautions” like face masks to tackle the virus for the foreseeable future.