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Huge spike Dr Tony Holohan: 'We haven't been as concerned at any point in this whole pandemic as we are now'

Dr Holohan warned that individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms "might as well accept" they are likely to be infected with the virus as the level of transmission is now so high it is "unlikely to be anything else".

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Dr Tony Holohan has warned about surging numbers of Covid-19 cases (PA)

Dr Tony Holohan has warned about surging numbers of Covid-19 cases (PA)

Dr Tony Holohan has warned about surging numbers of Covid-19 cases (PA)

There has been a further six Covid-19 related deaths while 6,110 new cases of the virus has been confirmed by the Department of Health this evening.

There is now a total 107, 997 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, while the death toll stands at 2,265.

So far, five deaths associated with Covid-19 have occurred this month.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said 94pc of today's cases were tested since 29 December.

Of the cases notified today, 3,655 are in Dublin, 323 in Kildare, 291 in Cork, 234 in Limerick, 137 in Louth and the remaining 1,470 cases are spread across all other counties.

The median age is 36 years old and 63pc are under 45 years of age.

The national 14-day incidence rate is now 583 cases per 100,000 population. The five-day moving average 3,568 cases on average per day.

There are currently 776 patients with Covid-19 in hospital and 70 patients with the virus in critical care.

Speaking at a briefing at the Department of Health this evening, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan said that the current situation is "extremely concerning", and that health officials "haven't been as concerned at any point in the whole pandemic as we are now."

He said the health system simply "can't deal with levels of infection as an acceptable level of infection."

Dr Holohan warned that individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms "might as well accept" they are likely to be infected with the virus as the level of transmission is now so high it is "unlikely to be anything else".

"It is incumbent on each one of us now to take onboard the public health message. If we are individuals who are experiencing symptoms," he said.

"And if you have symptoms that are flu like symptoms now, you might as well accept that this is Covid. The positivity rate in the community as we've heard is approaching 25pc in the public labs. If you have these symptoms, you know, it's unlikely to be anything else other than Covid at this point in time."

He urged those waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test and those with symptoms to self-isolate and restrict movements.

"That means staying in your bedroom, away from other people in your house, and not coming in contact with other people.

"If you live with somebody who is in that category has symptoms or has a positive test. You are a close contact and you must restrict your movements and that means not going to work means not going outside."

The National Public Health and Emergency Team's (Nphet) Professor Philip Nolan said: "The raw epidemological curve showing the number of cases confirmed per day, which in recent days may have been an underestimation but which is catching up as we speak, you can see that the recent daily counts are very significantly in excess of those that we saw in either of the two preceeding first wave of infections or the October surge in infections.

"We are seeing numbers which I never anticipated that I might have to report in this forum.

"Over the last seven days we've confirmed a little over 3,000 cases per day, on average, giving us a a 14 day incidence of 583 per 100,000. The situation in, in that level of disease is already having an enormous impact on our hospital system."

Meanwhile, HSE chief Paul Reid has warned Ireland is now in a "very serious situation" as Covid-19 cases are expected to surge to 7,000 per day over the coming week.

“We have run out of adjectives to describe how serious it is at the minute, but we are getting into a very serious situation overall with the cases but also with hospitalisations,” he said on Newstalk Breakfast.

“We have about 50 ICU beds free and 500 general beds so we are still hoping, however, the trajectory we’re looking at would tell us within January we could be rising to 1,500-2,000 hospitalised cases, and a rise in ICU from anywhere from around 250 and 430.”

There is currently 3,000 HSE staff currently off work due to having the virus or being a close contact.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today that the Government is to make a decision on whether schools will reopen on Wednesday.

"We know from the first lockdown it had a big impact on children, particularly children from lower income areas,” he said on RTÉ Radio 1’s News at One.

“We have to allow the experts time they need to examine the latest developments.

“There are ongoing conversations obviously across government and as you were just reporting there the stakeholders are meeting today with the Minister (Norma Foley) and the public health teams.

“However, I think it is reasonable to assume the government on Wednesday morning will make a decision on this.”

He added: “We want to strike a balance between giving the schools, parents and students as much time as possible and making sure we’re making the decision with the most up to date advice.”

Earlier today, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said that the Government is hoping to avoid a "large-scale" shutdown of schools.

However, he said that closures will be kept under review.

He told RTE's Morning Ireland: "The advice from Nphet is that schools are safe to open.

"The Government took a decision last week, that in light of the particularly high levels of Covid, we want to make a sustained effort to reduce movement this week and as such the reopening of schools was postponed.

"That situation is under constant review. We have always expressed the view that we want to keep childcare facilities and schools open.

"The long shutdown of schools at the beginning was not good for children.

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