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Signs virus surge is slowing but death toll remains high

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Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE clinical adviser, said there are 312 patients in critical care, adding that the situation is "very pressurised but functioning"

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE clinical adviser, said there are 312 patients in critical care, adding that the situation is "very pressurised but functioning"

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE clinical adviser, said there are 312 patients in critical care, adding that the situation is "very pressurised but functioning"

The death toll from Covid-19 this month is almost twice the figure for the entire month of December - but there are now signs the virus surge may be gradually slowing down.

There have been 338 deaths from the virus this month, with eight people dying yesterday - the youngest of whom was 49 and the oldest was 93.

However, for the second day in a row the daily number of cases fell, from 2,944 on Sunday to 2,121. The numbers in hospital, which had been at 2,032, fell to 1,975 by the afternoon yesterday.

Hospitals are under intense pressure, with 200 seriously ill patients in intensive care relying heavily on adapted surge beds to look after the sickest with the virus.

Chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said we need to restrict our movements down to the minimum so "we can drive this infection down faster than we have been driving it down so far".

Asked about the reopening of schools for special needs pupils, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there are no "zero-risk" environments. However, he said the closure of schools should be a "last resort".

"There are people working in shops all across the country and that's not a zero-risk environment," he added.

Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE clinical adviser, said there are 312 patients in critical care, adding that the situation is "very pressurised but functioning".

Asked about the risk of more infectious forms of the virus being brought into the country by overseas travellers arriving here, Dr Holohan said there is little point trying to stop the UK variant becoming the dominant strain.

He said measures cannot keep these viruses out of the country, but they can slow their progress and allow the opportunity to get as many people as possible vaccinated.

There is no evidence of onward transmission of the South African variant and the Brazilian variant has not been identified here.

Meanwhile, Dr Lorraine Nolan of the Health Products Regulatory Authority said it has received 81 reports of suspected reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine so far. However, all reactions are within the expected range and transient.

She said, internationally, there have been reports of anaphylaxis associated with the vaccine, but it is very rare.

The incidence of this with the vaccine is around one in 100,000 and, as more people get the vaccine, it is expected there will be suspected cases reported here also.

Referring to the 23 deaths of very elderly people with severe illness in Norway after getting the vaccine, Dr Nolan said there is no evidence to show they were caused by the vaccine.


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