According to a January 6 letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Hollohan to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, up to 500,000 Irish people were likely infected with COVID-19 last week.
Dr Holohan told Mr Donnelly in the same letter that the chance of active infection was 5.7-9.6 percent, which equated to between one in 10 and one in 20.
Its contents came as 19,290 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Tuesday. As of 8 am on Tuesday, there were 1,062 patients in hospitals across the country, of whom 92 were in ICUs.
Despite the continuing high case numbers, Mr Donnelly has said that people who have received a positive COVID-19 antigen test result will no longer need to obtain a confirmatory PCR test.
Until now a positive antigen result required people to have a PCR test to confirm a positive result, but the change would free up space in the testing system.
Mr Donnelly also confirmed that he plans to bring to cabinet a five-day isolation period for close contacts of confirmed cases if the person has been given their COVID-19 booster.
Mr Donnelly told Newstalk FM that he received the recommendations on Tuesday afternoon in a new letter from Dr Holohan dated 11 January.
Close contacts who have not received a booster and are in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case will now have to isolate for seven days.
For those who have actually tested positive themselves, the isolation period for all will now be reduced from 10 days to seven. Previously it was seven days for those who had a booster, and ten for those who did not have a booster.
In addition, anyone who has not received a booster shot but who has had COVID-19 in the past three months will not have to restrict their movements for five days if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case.
This is set to have a major impact as large numbers of people in the coming weeks will no longer need to restrict their movements if they are believed to be in close contact.
|confirmed cases in hospital||confirmed cases in ICU|
“The recommendation is that the confirmatory PCR test will be removed. I think it’s very positive. This makes it easier for people, they don’t have to go and do another test, and it also frees up some of the pressure on the PCR system because obviously we want people to get those PCR tests as soon as possible. be able to possible. So this is the first major major change,” Mr Donnelly said.
“The second one that I think would be welcome is the period of isolation: so if you get your test and you test positive, it is currently recommended for those who are promoted that they take seven Isolated for days and unboosted for 10 days. The recommendation is that it becomes just seven days for everyone.”
On the lifting of the five-day restriction of movement for close contacts, he said: “I think this is the one that will affect most people. Currently, you are asked to restrict your activities for five days if you have increased immunity. This requirement will be completely eliminated, so there is no restricted movement if you have boosted immunity. Now, the recommendation is still clear that there is regular antigen testing for several days. People will also wear high-grade masks during that period.
“And also, if you haven’t built up immunity, you’ll have 10 days to restrict your movements. The recommendation is that it’s reduced to seven days and obviously you still do regular tests.” and where there are high grade masks.”
highest incidence rate
Last week the 14-day incidence rate for the virus reached its highest level in the pandemic, 4,450 cases per 100,000 people, but Dr Holohan estimates it is even higher, taking into account testing constraints and undetected infections.
Covid-19 cases in the hospital are increasing at a rate of about 7 percent per day, Dr. Holohan said in a letter sent to Mr. Donnelly on January 6.
The incidence is higher in all age groups and higher in the oldest age groups than at any time in the epidemic, he says. Test positivity has also increased in recent weeks among people 65 years of age and older.
Relaying new guidance from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), Dr. Holohan Advises that all types of masks, including cloth masks, can significantly reduce transmission If they are properly constructed, well fitted and worn appropriately.
“Medical grade and respirator masks, if worn properly, provide more protection than cloth masks; Anyone who wants to wear a medical grade or respirator mask instead of a cloth mask should do so, as long as whatever mask they choose is well fitted and worn properly. ,
People who are over 60 or are medically vulnerable, who are currently advised to wear a medical mask in confined spaces, “may prefer to wear a respirator mask,” Nphet now advises.
Officials also say that “ideally” a respirator or medical-grade mask, not a cloth mask, should be worn by anyone: with a confirmed diagnosis during their infectious period; with symptoms; who is the household contact of a confirmed case; Or those who are going to a health care center or are going to meet people who are in the grip of Kovid-19.
Dr Holohan says Nphet will prepare a report before its next meeting (next week) that will allow a better understanding of the severity of omicrons, the effects of vaccinations and boosters, and other “important measures” of the impact of Covid-19. health system.
“While the current situation is dynamic and there are still a number of significant uncertainties, we have the advantage of a year’s worth of data on Covid-19 vaccines, and it is time to re-evaluate our strategic priorities for Covid-19 vaccination in the near and medium term. Duration. ,
test and trace capability
According to the letter, the test and trace system is now operating under enormous capacity and “severe pressure”. However, the number of deaths linked to COVID-19 and those admitted to the ICU remain stable.
Dr Holohan says the recent increase in incidences and hospitalizations has not “yet” translated into increased critical care admissions or deaths. Potential contributing factors, including the age profile of recent cases, the protection provided by vaccines and immunity from infection, and Omicron’s “low intrinsic virulence” compared to previous variants.
According to Dr Holohan, the number of hospital-acquired infections remains a cause for concern, with 36 recorded from last week to December 26.
There has been a significant increase in confirmed cases among hospital staff; 704 in the week to 26 December.
Some 80.5 percent of reported antigen test results are currently confirmed through PCR testing.
In early January, 96 percent of new COVID-19 cases were due to the Omicron variant, according to the letter, and 718 cases of Omicron have been confirmed through whole-genome sequencing.
37 flu cases have been notified so far this winter, while there has been a 75 percent drop in RSV notifications at the end of 2021.
Dr. Holohan says 49 percent of people in the hospital are fully vaccinated, as are 40 percent of those in the ICU.