There is now 135,884 cases of Coronavirus in Ireland, and a total of 2,327 deaths have occurred.
Of the cases notified today, 3,013 are in Dublin, 1,374 in Cork, 538 in Limerick, 314 in Kildare, 310 in Donegal and the remaining 2,699 cases are spread across all other counties
A total of 3,834 of the new confirmed cases are men and 4,375 are women.
As of 2pm today, 1,180 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 109 are in ICU. 116 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said; “Three cases of a new variant of COVID-19 recently identified in South Africa have been confirmed in Ireland today by whole genome sequencing. All of the cases identified are directly associated with recent travel from South Africa.
“Anyone who has travelled from South Africa recently is advised to self-isolate for 14 days and identify themselves through a GP for testing as soon as possible.
“We are particularly advising healthcare workers travelling from South Africa, that it is
essential that they self-isolate for 14 days before entering/re-entering the workplace.
“While this variant has not yet been identified in many European countries we believe the identification here reflects the extent of genome sequencing surveillance in Ireland.”
Dr Cillian De Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said; “The ECDC Assessment states that preliminary analyses indicate that the South African variant is associated with a heightened viral load and may have increased transmissibility. It also states that there is no evidence to date that this variant is associated with higher severity of infection.
“There is currently not enough information available to determine whether this variant poses a possible risk related to vaccine match and effectiveness. The antigenic characterisation of this new variant is ongoing, and results are expected in the coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, health officials are
preparing emergency plans as hospital staff are bracing themselves for the number of Covid-19 patients to more than double over the coming weeks.
Anne O’Connor, HSE chief operations officer, said they are preparing for 2,500 coronavirus patients in hospital, with up to 400 people in ICU over the coming weeks.
“We hope we don’t get there and the action people take will impact on that,” Dr O’Connor told RTE.
“Part of the challenge is time lag. When we hear the big numbers announced every day, in terms of the number who test positive, it takes a number of days or even a week for that to translate into hospital figures and another week again for ICU figures.”
The senior HSE official said that all hospital sites have surge capacity and will scale up to respond to higher numbers.
It comes as Cork University Hospital (CUH) is preparing to trigger its emergency tiered escalation plan over the rising number of cases.
Dr O’Connor said they are “concerned” about a number of sites in Cork.
“We have scaled back on non-Covid work on much of our sites, we are prioritising Covid and there are risks in that both for people who haven’t been able to access services and had appointments cancelled this week,” she added.