Coronavirus infections could climb as high as 1,200 per day, with around 101,000 in total between now and the end of September, if a “step change” in close social contact takes place in May, the Government has been warned.
A range of scenarios were presented to the Government in a letter from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
The Irish Times reports that the scenarios show if the R number, which tracks how quickly the pandemic is spreading, increases to 1.5 in the period following May 10th, daily case counts would peak at 1,100 to 1,200 per day in July.
Ministers were told that if a phased approach was adopted in the weeks ahead, such a scenario was the upper limit of what was likely.
The scenarios suggest a reopening involving close indoor contact will remain high risk for at least the next eight weeks.
Separate modelling in the letter suggests that allowing significant levels of close mixing, similar to those seen during July and August last year, from May 10th would result in another surge, putting significant pressure on the hospital system.
In that scenario, cases would be as high as 7,000 per day by July, with an estimate of around 385,000 cases between May and September.
However, modelling shared with the Goverment shows an increase in the R number to a similar level in early July almost totally avoids a surge, due to the impact of vaccination, suggesting a more widespread reopening at that stage could be done with significantly lower levels of risk.
The Cabinet is now set to approve a plan to significantly ease Covid-19 restrictions over the coming weeks, though a senior Minister has warned it will have to be revised if infection numbers increase as economic and social activity resumes.
Ministers met on Thursday afternoon to consider the faster than expected lifting of curbs approved by a Cabinet sub-committee on Wednesday night.
From May 10th, the plan would see the ban on intercounty travel lifted, personal services such as hairdressers reopening by appointment and larger groups being allowed to meet outdoors.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will give a public statement after 6pm on Thursday.