True infection rate likely much higher, warns Professor
The true number of Covid-19 cases is much higher than the 16,428 reported yesterday, according to an associate professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine at Trinity College.
As the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus climbs to 619, that’s an increase from 51 since yesterday morning.
Dr. Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, who is also a consultant at St. James’s Hospital in Dublin, pointed out that the test system was exhausted.
“I would guess that the real number of cases is actually much higher than the 16,000, which in itself is a pretty astounding number,” she told RTÉ Morning Ireland.
No PCR Covid-19 test slots were available nationwide today at noon.
David Cullinane, the health spokesman for Sinn Féin, said that “an astonishing 6% of the population are tested each week,” with health services nearing full capacity.
“This creates enormous difficulty for people to get access to a PCR test. Omicron is clearly widespread in the community.”
Mr. Cullinane requested that antigen tests be made freely available. He also urged the government to “establish a strategy for how we deal and respond to it” [high cases] … especially with regards to public health tests and news and hospital capacity. “
RTÉ expects the cabinet to meet next week, possibly on Wednesday. It is believed that the government’s position on schools will remain unchanged and that they will reopen after the Christmas break.
In the meantime, Dr. Ní Cheallaigh also today that it is reasonable to assume that a person with symptoms that look like Covid or have a positive antigen test has Covid and should follow public health advice accordingly.
However, she added that there are a number of reasons people want to know if they have a positive PCR test, including for work-related reasons, and it is “challenging”.
Dr. Ní Cheallaigh said it makes sense to reduce the isolation time for positive asymptomatic Covid cases (currently to 10 days) as essential services have to be staffed.
She pointed out that people are most contagious before and just after they get symptoms of Covid.
“If you look at it, maybe a seven-day isolation period with a few tests at the end. To make sure as much as possible that people got rid of the virus. It’s not an unreasonable thing.”
Infectious disease advisor at Beaumont Hospital Eoghan de Barra said the 10-day isolation period for Covid cases may not be sustainable.
Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Mr de Barra said that “tough choices” are ahead of us.
He said that changing the isolation period was a government decision and had to be made soon.
When asked if the current 10 day isolation policy was sustainable, he said, “I think it is likely that it will not be sustainable. It’s a very complex topic. “
“You probably know that many different countries are now struggling with this and have changed their guidelines – the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US is the first to go into five-day isolation.
“And this isn’t the first time isolation has progressed. When we started it was 14 days then 10 and the UK is still debating – they switched to a six day and two negative antigens on separate isolation days before Christmas, “said Mr de Barra.
Call for restriction of activities in the hospital system
In the meantime, INMO has called for all activities in Ireland’s public hospital system to be curtailed, with the exception of urgent emergency care.
Nursing and Midwifery General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha warned: “We are again seeing a large number of emergency rooms across the country today with 287 patients on carts.
“We know from experience that with 287 patients for whom there was no hospital bed on December 30th, this number tripled at the beginning of January.
“Now is the time to reduce all activity in our public hospital system to just emergency activities.”
Even today, the Department of Public Health Mid-West advises people in Limerick, Clare, and North Tipperary to limit social contact during the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
It warned: “There is evidence that the number of daily Covid-19 cases in the Midwest is more than double what it was before Christmas.”
Citywest Vaccination Clinic closed after reaching capacity
Walk-in refresher clinics are now open to those aged 30 and over, pregnant women and medical staff in certain vaccination centers across Ireland.
Some walk-in clinics for dose 1 and 2 are also open.
Long lines at Citywest Vaccine Clinic, Dublin, with a wait of up to 2.5 hours resulted in her closing her doors shortly after 11 a.m. because she was fully booked.
Elsewhere in Dublin, a walk-in center at Swords for booster jabs is scheduled to be in operation from 12.40 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. today.
People can also visit City Hall Cork (until 7:30 p.m.), Galway Racecourse (until 7:00 p.m.), Sligo Racecourse (until 7:30 p.m.), Tralee, Co Kerry (until 4:30 p.m.) and the Shoreline Leisure Center in Wicklow (until 7:00 p.m.) Queue for booster vaccinations at 7 p.m.).
Other walk-in clinics operating today include the Kilmore Hotel in Cavan (1:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.), Bantry (12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.), Letterkenny (open until 7:30 p.m.), Roscommon (2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.), Clonmel Park Hotel, Co Tipperary (until 6:30 p.m.) and Astro Active Center, Wexford (2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.).
The HSE Twitter account is currently not showing queues for most venues.