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HSE CEO says ‘worst case scenario’ could see 20,000 Covid-19 cases per day

Reid said that the current positivity rate of 21 per cent is “most likely to rise in the coming days.”
A woman receives a Covid-19 jab (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A woman receives a Covid-19 jab (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Clodagh Meaney

Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid has said that the country could be facing a “worst case scenario” of 20,000 cases of Covid-19 per day.

It comes amid a steep rise in Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant takes hold.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Reid said early evidence indicates that Omicron is a less dangerous variant but it is over five-and-a-half times more transmissible than Delta.

“We’re heading into a very high period of uncertainty, but there’s equally enough room for hope and joy.”

“What we have certainly seen over the last 48 to 72 hours is an acceleration of cases in total, but in particular an acceleration of positivity level.”

Reid said that the current positivity rate of 21% is “probably most likely to rise in the coming days.”

“All of that is giving a strong indication that we’re exiting a Delta wave,” he said, explaining that from a hospital perspective, we’re entering an Omicron wave.

NPHET outlined to the government that from an optimistic perspective, we can expect 8,000 cases per day over the festive period, with 20,000 cases per day the worst case scenario.

“Any range within there is the uncertain level.”

He advised that it could be avoided if people continue to follow public health advice as the booster campaign continues.

“We were doing about 87,000 PCR tests this week last year, this week this year we’re doing 220,000, plus 100,000 antigens.”

“We are going to grow that further. So we are going to grow our PCR tests to closer to 300,000 and utilize very significant volumes of antigen tests as part of it.”

Mr Reid also said that yesterday over 109,000 vaccinations were administered.

“We're putting significant extra resources in terms of our hospital and health care system, we're putting significant extra resources into our testing centres: more centres, more capacity, more capability.”

ICU capacity is being scaled up to around 380 beds, he said adding “we would not like to see more ICU beds filled, we would not like to see more people in hospital.”

He pleaded with the public to be cautious, be kind and to only attend emergency departments in the event of an urgent event.

While only 6% of the population have not received the vaccine, 54% of patients in ICU are unvaccinated.

“It does have a disproportionate effect on our health system,” he said.

As the HSE work with NGOs and vulnerable groups, people are still coming forward for their first and second doses of the jab.

The vaccination programme will continue until Christmas eve as GPs and healthcare workers will be given “a well deserved break” until Monday December 27th.

“We will be working hard around the clock to protect everybody.”

He urged people to keep in mind over Christmas that their actions will affect healthcare workers in the new year.

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