Some people who contracted virus during Christmas peak are now getting it again
ALMOST 64,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since St Patrick’s Day.
The number of people in hospital with the virus is also now at its highest level in nearly a year.
While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said over the weekend that there are no plans to reintroduce mandatory mask wearing or other restrictions, HSE chief Paul Reid today urged people to take their own precautions.
He said some people who caught the virus during the original Omnicron surge around Christmas and New Year have been re-infected in recent days.
Mr Reid said he understands that “everyone wants to move on” with their lives, but heightened levels of awareness are needed.
Latest figures released by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show 4,024 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 yesterday. This is in addition to 10,631 people who registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal. The true number of infected people is likely to be considerably higher as there is no requirement to register an antigen test.
As of 8am today, 1,308 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of whom 49 are in ICU.
Mr Reid said: “We are seeing people who had Covid in January even, again having Covid. That’s not an unusual occurrence at this point in time. So yeah, we are seeing people testing positive for a second time.”
However, Mr Reid told RTE’s ‘Today with Claire Byrne’ programme the HSE is urging heightened levels of awareness “without heightened levels of anxiety”.
“If we are in congregated crowds, if we are on public transport the advice is still wear a mask and for everybody to take that personal risk assessment,” he said.
“Particularly for older or vulnerable people or people who are immuno-compromised to continue mask wearing. To continue to be conscious of when you are in crowds to make that risk assessment.”
He said there is significant number of people who caught the virus over Christmas and who are eligible and “should” come forward for a booster vaccine.
“There’s about 700,000 people in that category and equally people who haven’t received their primary [dose]. The one benefit we can see this time is, as we are dealing with a heightened level of impact, is the benefits of the vaccination programme and that rings true for all age groups,” he said.
It comes as less than 20pc of children aged five to 12 years old have received both vaccine doses.
Mr Reid said the low uptake is disappointing, but he admitted it is harder to convince people to get vaccinated or to vaccinate their children when “society has moved on”.
However, he said the HSE will continue to encourage all eligible people to get their vaccines and boosters where appropriate.
There are 1,308 people in hospital with Covid-19 this morning including 49 in ICU.
“Thankfully the numbers in ICU are still holding low,” Mr Reid said.
“There has been a significant increase in the last 14 days, about 75pc increase in hospitalisations so we’re still dealing with a very highly transmissible virus.”
Mr Reid said over the last three weeks, there has also been “record levels” of people presenting at hospitals and emergency departments for none Covid treatment.
He also confirmed that of the more than 1,300 Covid patients in hospital today, roughly 50pc of them contracted the virus after being admitted.
He said thankfully the numbers have not led to severe pressure in ICUs like with pervious strains, but staff are being stretched and bed numbers are also an issue.
Mr Reid said staff absences have increased over the last fortnight, with 4,200 people out of work “with Covid from the HSE” as of last Friday.
He said there are also roughly 900 nursing home employees off work at the moment.
“I think across industry we’re all beginning to see more staff absences through Covid. So, it’s a function of what’s transmitting in the community and again, thankfully not as severe, but from a hospital perspective it is impacting us.”
Mr Reid also confirmed that some hospitals had to cancel elective procedures recently, but the HSE is not planning to issue a national directive on suspending non-essential elective care at this time.
He added that the HSE is increasing its use of the private hospital system, with 1,900 beds used last week for elective care.
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