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Covid-19: 4,141 new infections today while Omicron cases climb to 39

Many elective care procedures have been cancelled over recent weeks and last week 1,700 bed days were used in private hospitals across the country to offset this
(Stock Photo)

(Stock Photo)

Eilish O'Regan

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has been notified of 4,141 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

As of 8am, 443 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of whom 108 were in ICU.

Meanwhile, following further data validation, the total number of Omicron cases confirmed through whole genome sequencing in Ireland to date has been revised down to 39 confirmed cases.

However, the highly infectious Omicron variant is continuing its march in Ireland and now accounts for 27pc of new Covid-19 infections, the HSE warned today.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said even the calmest voices are now saying they are more worried than at any other time of the pandemic.

However, he told the HSE weekly briefing the evidence around the protection Covid-19 booster shots give against the virus "is a source of hope for us all."

He said that "with the booster dose there is a significant increase in vaccine effectiveness with "perhaps 70pc, 75pc reduction in infection for both those who got the AstraZeneca and those who got the Pfizer vaccines, which certainly should be a source of some hope for us."

He said the evidence is "pointing towards a variant that is going to rapidly displace Delta".

Denmark is "certainly one of the epicentres" as it has seen a sharp rise in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The danger for Ireland is that if there is another significant increase in hospitalisations it comes on top of a very high base.

Even if the Omicron variant is less severe, if you have enough people infected, that will lead to a rise in hospitalisations, he added.

Currently the trend in hospitalisations is downwards with 443 Covid-19 patients in hospital, down 18pc in a week and 105 in intensive care, a fall of 11pc.

This is mainly due to the roll out of booster shots which have seen a fall in infections in the over 65s.

Hospitals are still on war footing and creating additional intensive care beds bringing the number to around 350 - up from a permanent base of 301. But standards of care cannot be guaranteed if numbers exceed 350.

Meanwhile Dr Lucy Jessop of the HSE's immunisation section said a number of medically high risk children aged 5 to 12 will be offered a first dose of Pfizer vaccine next week in children's hospitals and paediatric units.

Parents of children in vulnerable categories who either have an illness or living in a household with someone immunocompromised will be able to register for a vaccine.

Dedicated clinics will be set up at vaccination centres in the coming weeks which are child friendly.

Children will be bring along a favourite toy and they will get stickers.

There will also be videos online explaining to them what is involved.

The children in vulnerable categories will be invited first and it will be extended to other children in this age group from the second week in January.

Damien McCallion who is overseeing the vaccination rollout said around 1.3m now have had a booster or a third dose.

Damien McCallion

Damien McCallion

The aim is to increase that to 1.5m by Christmas, and the priority is to have given the over 50s and other vulnerable groups either a booster, an appointment or a chance to get shot at a walk-in clinic by the end of the year.

Yesterday saw the largest number of people boosted in a day reaching 50,000.

The HSE's new plan involves vaccination centres staying open from 8am to 8pm along with more clinics by GPs and pharmacists.

A new centre in Dublin at Richmond Barracks opened today and the RDS will be a vaccination centre on December 27.

Staff have been redeployed for administrative back up .

People in their 40s will begin to get boosters from December 27 and other age groups should be informed of when they will be eligible next week.

Asked if pharmacists should honour registrations among younger age groups - after the HSE incorrectly told pharmacists they could give boosters to over 16s yesterday - HSE chief Paul Reid said the priority must be older and other eligible groups.

Mr McCallion said as Omicron advances there will be more pressure on the testing system.

The plan is to have 250,000 test slots a week by the end of the year with another 100,000 rapid antigen tests.

If the system is overwhelmed, prioritisation will need to be made on who gets tested.

Mr Reid said many elective care procedures have been cancelled over recent weeks and last week 1,700 day beds were used in private hospitals across the country to offset this.

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