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'Serious threat' Record 20,554 new cases as Dr Tony Holohan urges public not to have NYE gatherings

There were more than 44,081 tests conducted in the last reporting period of 24 hours, the highest total ever conducted by the HSE in one day

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There have been 20,554 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team this evening, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began.

This eclipses yesterday’s previous record daily total of 16,428 cases and takes Ireland’s case count across the three quarters of a million mark this evening.

It comes as Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has urged the public to not hold household gatherings on New Year’s Eve.

In a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly this evening, Dr Holohan raised concerns at the high numbers of daily cases recorded in recent days.

It's understood that in his letter, Dr Holohan said that social contacts indoors should be kept to a minimum in advance of New Year’s Eve celebrations tomorrow night.

In a statement this evening, Dr Holohan said people should avoid mixing with other households in the coming days.

“I know this is not the advice any one of us wants to hear, particularly in advance of New Year celebrations. However, given the current profile of the disease, it is essential that all of us continue to keep our social contacts as low as possible in the days ahead,” he said.

“For the fourth time this week, we are reporting Ireland’s highest ever number of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“In the last 24 hours, 148 people with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a ‘detected’ test result while in hospital. Hospitalisations at this level are not sustainable and are having a significant impact on our health service.

“It is important to note that these admission figures are increasingly likely to be driven by the surge in Omicron infection which now accounts for over 90pc of PCR confirmed cases in Ireland. Over 90pc of people in hospital and intensive care with Covid-19 are there for the management of Covid-19; less than 5pc of those in hospital or intensive care have ‘incidental’ (asymptomatic, non-infectious) disease.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said today that Omicron is a “serious threat” and is “spreading rapidly” in the community. he urged people to “please get a booster” and said over 417,000 people have been boosted in the past week.

As of 8am this morning, there were 619 people in hospital with the virus, an increase of 51 on the day before, but up from 378 on Christmas Day. There are 88 people in intensive care with Covid-19, a reduction of one on the day before.

The HSE Covid-19 dashboard states there have been 148 new confirmed cases in hospitals in the past 24 hours - a mixture of people admitted to hospital with the virus and people who contracted the virus while in hospital. There were 68 people who had the virus that were discharged from hospital in the past 24 hours.

Close to 2.1m people have now received a booster or third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 754 people got their first jab on Wednesday and 1,138 received a second dose. Over 7.5m vaccine doses will have been administered in Ireland by the end of today.

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Testing still remains a bone of contention at the moment as many struggle to book PCR tests as the HSE booking portal is fully booked within minutes of releasing appointments for the following days.

There were more than 44,081 tests conducted in the last reporting period of 24 hours, the highest total ever conducted by the HSE in one day. Nearly one in two of these tests were positive, at 49pc, and the seven-day positivity rate currently stands at 39.4pc.

The HSE anticipates conducting 300,000 tests this week. If current testing and positivity rates continue over the coming days, Ireland will record more than 100,000 cases in a week for the first time. It’s also now likely Ireland will see more than 200,000 cases in December.

People in the Midwest have been advised to limit their social contacts ahead of New Year's Eve as cases in the region are believed to be double what they were before Christmas.

Public Health Mid-West said current high volumes in cases may see a delay in the reporting of numbers and that it expects to see a “significant increase” in the case numbers in the coming weeks due to the impact of social activity across Christmas and the New Year.

Dr Rose Ftizgerald, a specialist in Public Health Medicine said the “true impact of Christmas celebrations and the presence of Omicron" have yet to be felt as cases numbers and hospitalisations are further expected to increase in the coming days.

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