Tony Holohan, Chief Medicine Officer, has urged people not to meet with other households and to avoid crowded retail environments in an effort to slow down the spread of Omicron variants of Covid-19.
Although he acknowledged that testing centres are busy, he said that people with Covid-19 symptoms should continue self-isolating until they receive a PCR result.
His comments came as an additional 10,404 cases of Covid-19 were reported on St Stephens Day. Christmas Day saw the state’s highest single-day infection rate since the pandemic. It was 13,765.
At 8:26 on Sunday morning, there were 426 Covid-19-related cases in hospital. 50 new hospital admissions were recorded in the 24 hours preceding. This was the lowest number of hospital admissions in a week.
The number of people admitted to intensive care units was 91, the lowest since November 9th. Just a third (33%) of all ICU beds are currently occupied with critically ill patients by Covid-19 patients.
HSE data showed that Mater in Dublin had the most Covid-19 patients in ICU, with 13 at 8pm Christmas Day. University Hospital Limerick followed with 11, Tallaght with nine, and St Jamess in Dublin with 10.
There were 1,293 general beds available in the hospital system, and 27 adult ICU or high dependency unit beds.
Mr Holohan stated that people should continue to reduce contact and avoid crowded places as much as possible. We are seeing the Omicron variant of Covid-19 become the dominant variant in Ireland.
We know this variant is more transmissible then even the highly transmissible Delta variation. Please do not socialize or meet indoors with other households.
Avoid crowds, especially in retail environments. He encouraged online shopping whenever possible.
He suggested that people should not queue in retail environments that do not feel safe.
He advised people who have not had a booster jab to take every precaution to ensure they are eligible for it.
This means that you should avoid dangerous environments and keep your contact lists as low as you can.
Mr Holohan stated: All evidence suggests that booster vaccines will provide good protection against infections with the Omicron variety.
He also stated: It is important to self-isolate anyone who experiences symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of how mild, and arrange a PCR testing.
Due to high levels of COVID-19 throughout the country, our test centers are busy at the moment. It is important that you self-isolate as long as you wait to receive your PCR test results and any additional information from HSE.
Mr Holohan stated that it was important to take an antigen test every five days if you have traveled to Ireland from abroad.
During a pre-Christmas round-table interview, Taoiseach Michel Martin asked if this current wave of Covid-19 infection would be the last.
He replied, “I’m loath to use this language, but, certainly, it would be more optimistic than not that things would be getting better.” [at dealing with the virus]This. I do not have sufficient data to make a definitive assessment of the surge.
Martin agreed with some of the views that Omicron might have been the last surge. But he said: Im not qualified enough to say that definitively. Omicron has re-infected people who were previously infected by Delta. This opens up the possibility for reinfection.
The main issue would be severity. This refers to whether the disease is more contagious but less severe. He stated that this could lead to a new horizon, a new scenario for the future.
Martin stated that looking back on the past year, vaccination has been a game changer.
He also said: Do you really think we would be open today for retail, construction, and all other things if there were 4,500 or even 5,000 cases?
It is, therefore, a game changer for me.
He stated that boosters have been done and that new vaccines for variants are being developed. It is possible that there will be an annual vaccination program.
Martin said that the HSE was looking to build a stronger independent capacity so that they can switch between vaccination programs around this issue.
He stated that anti-viral drugs are being developed and will hopefully lead to better treatment.
So I believe we will get better at handling it. This is how I see us dealing with Covid in the future while allowing our full economy to return.
Martin said that the economy is roaring back after we re-opened since March. However, he cautioned: We need to be careful too because a lot that energy was captured by the Covid restrictions or suppressed.
He said, “So we are in an even better position from that perspective than if we had not vaccinated.”
There are significant advances in medicine for 2022. Even though the current situation is not favorable, I am more optimistic.