Numbers in hospital up 60 in 24 hours
People are again being encouraged to wear face masks on public transport and in healthcare settings as the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 rose by 60 in just 24 hours.
The Department of Health issued an advisory online stating: “Wearing a face mask is advised on public transport and in healthcare settings.
“People who are vulnerable to Covid-19 are advised to be aware of the risk associated with activities they may choose to engage in and to wear a face mask for enhanced protection.”
It also said people “should consider” wearing a mask in “crowded indoor settings” and no one should be “discouraged” from wearing masks.
At the end of February the mandatory face masks rule for public transport and shops was dropped. Since then there has been little mask-wearing on public transport or indoor areas.
Yesterday there were 397 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, an increase of 60 from Saturday. There were 24 people with the virus in ICU, two of whom had been admitted in the previous 24 hours.
UCD virologist Dr Gerald Barry told the Irish Independent that while it was important people should be allowed to make their own decisions, he felt it was sensible to wear masks on public transport and in crowded indoor areas. “We’re seeing another wave of infection sweeping across the country as a result of new variants,” he said.
“The variants are slightly different to what we’ve seen in the past. People who were previously infected are susceptible to infection.
“While I think everyone needs to make their own personal choices at this stage, if people wear a well fitted N95 mask on public transport or in crowded indoor areas, it will give some protection against infection.
“For anyone who’s vulnerable or concerned about Covid-19, they should be aware of their social interaction.
“And for anyone who’s going to visit vulnerable people, it would be advisable they do antigen tests first. There’s still a great deal we don’t know about long Covid and I don’t think it’s a positive for people to keep being re-infected.
“Repeated infections of Covid isn’t good for the health of the population overall.”
Dr Barry said it was positive that Ireland was back to normal, but he felt it was appropriate people recognised Covid isn’t a seasonal virus – as the current spike shows.
He also felt an official message should now once again encourage antigen testing and said more research was needed on long Covid.
DCU immunologist Professor Christine Loscher said it was “not really surprising” figures had increased due to more normalised activities, including travel. The two new variants circulating – BA.4 and BA.5 – are also more transmissible, she added and are evading vaccines more than previous variants.
However, vaccination was still protecting people from serious illness and hospitalisation, she said.
“The most important message is for those over 65 and those who are immunocompromised, who’ve not had the chance to take advantage of the booster, they should consider their booster now.
“For those who can’t get a vaccine, for whatever reason, at any stage, like now, when there’s a bit of an uptick in cases, it’s time to take extra precautions, such as putting on a mask when mixing with people, and be aware of the environment you’re in.”
However, the current rise in numbers is not “a huge concern at the moment”, she added.