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concern Highest daily Covid total since pandemic began as 16,428 new cases confirmed

Today, close to one in two people tested was positive

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (PA).

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (PA).

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (PA).

There have been 16,428 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed by the Department of Health this evening, the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

This eclipses the previous highest total of 13,765 new cases confirmed on Christmas Day.

There have been 22 newly notified deaths in the past week, bringing to 5,912 the total deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland.

The test positivity of swabs confirmed today was 45pc, meaning close to one in two people tested had Covid-19.

As of 8am this morning, there were 568 people in hospital with Covid-19 - a four-week high and an increase of 47 on yesterday. There are 93 people in ICU with the virus, up one from yesterday.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, said all of the latest epidemiological indicators “are a cause of concern”.

“In recent days, we have seen a rise in new admissions to hospitals of Covid-19 patients, at levels not seen since January 2021. On two consecutive days this week, over 100 patients with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a ‘detected’ test result while in hospital.

“Today, we are also reporting our highest ever number of confirmed cases in Ireland. The Omicron variant is accelerating rapidly in the community and given the very high levels of transmission of this new variant nationwide, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious, and strictly adhere to the public health measures by washing hands regularly, keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowded places and reducing social contacts as much as possible.

“If you are planning to visit retail environments in the coming days, please choose retailers that adhere strongly to the public health guidance and leave any environment that feels unsafe. The current levels of infection we are experiencing mean that shopping in crowded environments, where physical distancing is not possible, should be seen as a high-risk activity and should be avoided unless absolutely essential - especially by those who are not yet fully vaccinated and boosted,” Dr Holohan said.

There have now been over two million booster or third doses administered in the country as the booster programme is opened to people aged 30-39 from today.

This age group begun receiving the booster at walk-in vaccination centres around the country today as long as they received their second dose at least three months ago or were not infected with Covid-19 in the last three months.

There were more than 458,000 booster doses given in the week up to Christmas Day, according to latest HSE stats.

Meanwhile, every testing centre in the country is showing no available appointments for today as demand continues to surge.

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Appetite for testing is likely to be near the 300,000 mark this week, the HSE’s lead on vaccination and testing Damien McCallion said.

Mr McCallion said the testing infrastructure’s ability to surveill the virus and warn close contacts is nearing its limit and is unlikely to have a huge impact on controlling the virus in the community.

Mr McCallion told the Irish Independent that if someone has any symptoms, then it is likely they have Covid-19, such are the levels of virus in the community.

Increased mobile testing centres have been employed by the HSE to help but demand is still seeing appointment slots being fully booked quite quickly.

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