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Ireland Covid-19 death toll passes 6,000 mark as 20,909 new cases confirmed

However Nphet believes the growth rate in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations has stabilised and may be starting to fall
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan

Eoghan Moloney and Hugh O'Connell

There have now been more than 6,000 deaths of people in Ireland with Covid-19, it emerged this evening.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) were notified of a further 83 deaths in the past week.

Meanwhile there have been 20,909 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed this evening.

However Nphet believes the growth rate in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations has stabilised and may be starting to fall.

There were 1,055 people in hospital with the virus as of 8am this morning, down seven from yesterday, while there are 92 in ICU, unchanged from Tuesday.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, said the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is continuing to have a “significant impact” on all areas of our society and economy due to its increased growth advantage compared to Delta.

"There are some early, positive indicators however, that suggest infection from Omicron results in less severe illness and reduced requirement for care in hospital.

“It is important to note that the changes announced today cover a range of measures from self-isolation and restriction of movements to mask wearing and testing. These measures are more proportionate to the current level of infection and the impact it is having.

"In particular, while we are reducing the requirement to self-isolate and restrict movements for cases and close contacts respectively, we are strengthening guidance relating to mask wearing and reduced social contact for the full ten days following diagnosis or last known close contact.

“These measures are intended to maintain our protection of public health while reducing pressure on the health service and enabling the continued operation of other economic and social sectors in society, including essential services,” Dr Holohan said.

It comes as the 10 millionth vaccine dose was administered today and the Cabinet agreed to change the rules of close contacts.

From Friday, close contacts who have had a booster jab and do not have symptoms of Covid-19 will no longer have to restrict their movements.

People who have not had their booster will still be required to restrict their movements (stay at home) for seven days.

Meanwhile, the growth rate in new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations has stabilised and may be starting to fall, Nphet believes.

Philip Nolan, Nphet's head of modelling, told a technical briefing on Tuesday that the number of people in critical care is now lower than it was prior to Christmas and that the number of patients needing advanced support is stable.

Professor Nolan told the briefing that without current constraints on testing the number of daily cases being reported would be between 30,000 and 40,000 per day, but he said that increased incidence of hospitalisations has not yet translated into critical care admissions or increased mortality.

Test positivity in public health labs now stands at 60pc and Nphet estimates that around 3pc of the population have a detected case of Covid-19 but the actual prevalence of infection is likely to be 6pc and 11pc.

He was speaking as Nphet briefed on the latest changes to close contact rules. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that as part of the new measures the HSE would now be providing medical face masks in addition to a pack of antigen tests to those who register as close contacts.

Boosted asymptomatic close contacts will no longer be required to restrict their movements for up to five days but Nphet officials stressed that they are being advised to take further precautions including regular self-testing wearing medical masks.

Deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said that boosted adults will still need to do regular testing, wear medical face mask for 10 days, limit their contact without others, avoid crowds.

Dr Glynn also said that anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 since December 1 and has recovered does not have to undergo a test or restrict their movements if they are a close contact unless they are symptomatic.

Dr Holohan defended the changes saying they were “within the tramlines” of guidance set down for the European Centre for Disease Control and said it was about replacing one public health measure with another.

The briefing was told that up to 30pc of Covid patients in hospital are so-called incidental admissions in that they are there for other reasons and were not admitted due to severe illness form the virus.

The CMO also said that it was “not at all certain” that the Israelis had followed the correct route in beginning a fourth dose booster programme.

He said he had written to NIAC to ask them to consider the evidence surrounding the necessity of a fourth dose and its implications on the vaccination programme into the future.

Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over what the changes to testing which mean that under 40s will not need to get a PCR test if they have a positive antigen test will mean for those needing a ‘recovery certificate’ to obtain a Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) for travel if they are unvaccinated or need to access social welfare payments, such as Covid illness benefit.

The Department of Health said on Wednesday that under EU rules a positive PCR test was needed in order to obtain a DCC ‘recovery certificate’.

Ministers have been told in the latest Cabinet memo that there will need to be further consideration in the coming days of how a positive antigen test will be managed in the context of being able to obtain a DCC ‘recovery cert’ and how people who test positive on antigen will be able to access welfare benefits without a confirmatory PCR test.

There was no clear indication from Government on Wednesday night as to what the removal of the requirement of a PCR test for under 40s would mean in terms of DCCs and welfare.

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