Officials are hopeful that Covid-19 cases will begin to decline without any need for new restrictions, despite a warning from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Ireland had lifted the public health curbs too “brutally”.
Political and official sources were steadfast on Tuesday that despite the increasing pressure on hospitals, restrictions were not being considered.
“There’s no doubt it’s creating a strain on the hospital system, but there’s no clear proportionate measure that would reduce that strain,” one official said.
A total of 23,702 Covid-19 cases were reported in the State yesterday, one of the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. This included 15,873 positive antigen tests, the highest number registered on a single day.
|Confirmed cases in hospital||Confirmed cases in ICU|
There were 1,338 Covid-19 patients in Irish hospitals yesterday, an increase of 31 on the previous day, including 61 in intensive care, up from 37 on March 11th.
Experts believe the rise in cases in Ireland and other European countries is being driven by the BA.2 subvariant, which differs slightly from Omicron and is 30 per cent more transmissible. Officials say it became dominant in Ireland about a fortnight ago.
The WHO’s Europe director Hans Kluge said Covid-19 was on the rise in 18 out of 53 countries in its European region.
“The countries where we see a particular increase are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, France, Italy and Germany,” he said. The main reason behind the increase was likely to be BA.2, he said, adding that “those countries are lifting the restrictions brutally from too much to too few”.
A senior source said it was hoped that Ireland would follow a similar path to Denmark, where cases peaked in March before declining again. “We’re hopeful we’re at the top of the hill now, and we’ll start seeing the case numbers coming down.”
Decisions are being taken without any new modelling projections being drawn up for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, who has not yet approved plans for a new advisory body to replace the National Public Health Emergency Team, which was stood down in February.
A proposal was sent to Mr Donnelly by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan regarding a new body, but none has been appointed. A spokesman for Mr Donnelly said the chief medical officer’s office, the Department of Health and the HSE “are continuing to monitor the epidemiological profile of the disease and advise Government accordingly”.