Surge alert | 

Irish hospitals may face 'quite a lot of illness' in next Covid-19 surge, warn WHO

'I think it will pick up again in about another four to six weeks and there’ll be another surge'

Dr David Nabarro, Special Envoy with the World Health Organisation

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Irish hospitals may face “quite a lot of illness” again as Ireland is hit by another surge in Covid-19 infections in four to six weeks time.

Dr David Nabarro was speaking as case numbers trend upwards once more, adding that there will continue to be new surges every three months.

“We’ve actually been going down in terms of numbers around the world for the last four to six weeks,” Dr Nabarro, WHO envoy, said.

“I think it will pick up again in about another four to six weeks and there’ll be another surge. There will be a surge in Ireland as well as in the British isles, and that may lead to quite a lot of illness in hospitals again.”

There were 12 more deaths and 2,837 new Covid-19 cases recorded yesterday, with 1,236 infections confirmed by PCR test while 1,601 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

The number of patients in hospital with the virus has dropped by more than two thirds this month, with 477 people hospitalised at present - compared to nearly 1,500 at the start of April. There are 33 people in intensive care.

The latest surge in March prompted calls for greater use of face masks and a halt to elective care as hospitals faced a “chaotic” situation.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said under-reporting meant the true number of cases each week was likely “several hundred thousand” but there were no moves to reinstate restrictions or ramp up the test and trace system in response to the spread of the disease.

Ireland’s handling of the pandemic was criticised by the WHO at the time, which said the country lifted restrictions “brutally” from “too much, to too few”.

However, one of Ireland’s best-known disease experts said the country had emerged from the coronavirus pandemic “exceptionally well”.

Professor Sam McConkey, head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland said that we fared better “economically and healthwise” compared to other countries.

"A group from Seattle, published in The Lancet about two weeks ago, looking at what they call excess deaths in each country in the world over the last two years," he told Newstalk Breakfast yesterday.

"Many people have asked, including on your programme, how many of the folk who actually have died with Covid have died because of Covid?

Professor Sam McConkey said we had emerged from the coronavirus pandemic “exceptionally well”

"Overall in 2020 and 2021 in Ireland, sadly one in 4,000 of our population were dead above and beyond what would have been expected based on the changes of death from the previous 10 years.

"They use the previous 10 years averages to see what you would expect in terms of numbers.

"Shockingly in the UK it was one in 400 - that's 10 times more than us.

"The worst in the world was Bulgaria and Bolivia [which] had one in 70 of their population had excess deaths.

"That's like 1.3%, that would be the equivalent of 70,000 deaths in Ireland - we never approached anything like that".

He says the Irish economy has also emerged very robust.

"In retrospect, in terms of the countries around the world, we've done exceptionally well.

"Economically, somehow, we have come out of this outbreak with our economy reasonably intact.

"I know it's facing problems with [the] high price of oil and inflation, but that's a different issue.

"But in terms of our economic performance through and during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, Ireland has also come out of that very robustly.

"So both economically and healthwise, we've come out of this exceptionally well compared to Europe and America".

He adds that the reason for our lower rates is because we "switched off all of our social interactions" during the first wave.

"But overall... we have about 1,200 extra deaths in Ireland above and beyond what would have been expected in 2020 and 2021."

He was speaking as the total number of Covid-19 deaths here passed the 7,000 mark up to Monday, April 25.

Data shows 7,016 people have died, including "probable and possible deaths" from the virus.

However not everyone who dies with Covid-19 will have died from it.

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos