We are on the foothills of the fourth Covid-19 wave – but why does it not feel like it?
Is the feeling that we could ride this wave out correct? Or are we deluding ourselves?
We have had some scary projections surrounding hospitalisations and deaths over next three months, and equally claims by some scientists abroad that the more infectious Delta variant behind the next surge is like a “bad cold”.
Somewhere between the two extremes lies the truth of what is ahead. So why is there so much confusion?
The reality now is that each country is something of an experiment of its own.
Much depends on how far a country’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage is along, and how many people have had one or two doses.
The most at-risk groups here have been fully vaccinated for the most part, although it will be next weekend before around 100,000 remaining 60 to 69-year-olds have got their second jab.
We have made good headway in recent weeks, with an accelerated roll-out allowing the country to buy some time before the Delta variant slowly and silently became dominant.
We are stronger than before previous waves, but there are weaknesses too.
Some 53pc adults are fully vaccinated but that leaves nearly half who are not. Seven-in-ten are partially vaccinated.
We know the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated are most at risk from the variant which is twice as infectious as the form of coronavirus circulating last summer.
HSE chief Paul Reid said around 64pc of adults should be fully protected at the end of July and the target is 75pc by the end of August. The HSE gets vaccines out as soon they come in and the biggest constraint is supply. But the Delta variant is set to streak ahead and due to peak in August – so vaccinations will be in catch-up mode.
The biggest unknown is how many of these extra cases will translate into Covid-19 illness which will lead to hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and deaths.
There were 631 new cases confirmed yesterday which is the highest we have seen since April.
However, the number of patients with Covid-19 fell to 50, compared to 58 on Thursday. Last week, there were 46 in hospital. Yesterday, there were 15 patients in intensive care with the virus, a fall of two since Thursday.
We know however there can be a time lag between a rise in cases of the virus and hospitalisations. The same pattern is expected this time, but the rate of hospitalisation will be lower, by how much, we don’t know.
There will be some fully vaccinated people infected, but again it is unclear how many. Healthy younger groups will catch the virus and some could get very ill but again we don’t know what the extent of this will be.
Added to the stress of all this is the toll even modest admissions will take on hospital staff.
This time the impact of Covid-19 admissions to hospital will not be so much the numbers as the strain it could put on a fragile system tackling a backlog of patients arising out of, not just the post-lockdown rush, but also the fallout of the HSE cyber attack.
In the UK, the traject ory is up and some hospitals are cancelling waiting-list patients, but the numbers overall are low.
The link between cases and hospitalisations is weakened and they are no longer tracking rises as they were.
The projections for potential cases, hospitalisations and deaths presented by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) when it recommended the a delay in reopening indoor hospitality, are now being revised downwards.
Those figures which projected a worst case scenario of up to 700,000 cases, 13,000 hospitalisations and 1,695 in intensive care to the end of September were based on pubs and restaurants reopening as per the original plan.
Now, they look set to reopen to only vaccinated people and those who have proof they had a confirmed case of Covid-19.This immediately reduces the risk of transmission.
But we cannot afford to take our eye off Delta.