Covid chaos is triggering another round of staff sickness as essential services, including hospitals, nursing homes and airlines, are gripped by another wave of infection.
The surge led to at least 31,200 people testing positive for the virus last week through PCR and antigen tests. This is up from more than 23,400 in the previous seven days.
Several hospitals have reimposed visiting restrictions to curb the spread and cope with staff absences. Around 600 health workers were out with the virus yesterday.
Another 200 health staff in the community were self-isolating as the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which have sparked the summer wave, heaped more pressure on the workforce – including areas of hospitality trying to cope with seasonal demand.
Aer Lingus cancelled 12 flights after a rise in infection among staff.
It comes as the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital rose to 779, up 25 on the previous day, with 31 in intensive care.
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said around 300 patients in hospital with Covid had not been vaccinated or boosted.
“Things would be much worse if we did not have the level of vaccine coverage that we have,” he said.
There is also a high level of reinfections among people who previously got the virus.
However, the rise in hospitalisations of people with Covid was not as sharp as seen during the BA.2 wave in March, said Dr Henry. The hope is that numbers are reaching a plateau in this latest wave.
Dr Henry added that while the number of health staff who were out due to Covid was also not as bad as in the spring wave, it was still having an impact.
Yesterday, University Hospital Kerry was among the hospitals that severely restricted visiting as the county is experiencing a very high incidence of infection.
Only one prearranged visit per week, except for those on compassionate grounds, is allowed for general wards.
Partners will be allowed to attend for antenatal and labour in the maternity section of the hospital, but no children will be permitted.
The arrangements are to be reviewed weekly.
In Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital, visitors have been told to check in advance whether they are allowed on a particular ward and should contact the ward directly.
Only one visitor per patient is allowed, and children under 16 are not allowed to visit.
End-of-life care and compassionate visiting is allowed only at the discretion of the clinical nurse manager.
Meanwhile, workers across the public service, including in hospitals, who caught Covid-19 at work and developed long Covid, will no longer be entitled to full pay from tomorrow, July 1.
The special leave arrangement, allowing full pay, and which was in place for several hundred workers across the public sector, will end and they will revert to normal sick leave arrangements – which will see a curtailment in pay.
The Department of Public Expenditure, which is behind the axing of the special leave, did not respond to questions yesterday on why it had issued the instruction to the HSE and other frontline public service agencies.
Many frontline workers caught Covid when PPE was scarce and before vaccines were available.