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Officials warn worse to come as 23,281 new cases of Covid-19 reported

'Patients who are presenting at our ED with non-urgent conditions are unfortunately experiencing lengthy waiting times to be seen.'
Paul Hyland and Luke Byrne

The trend of record numbers of new daily Covid-19 cases in Ireland is continuing with 23,281 new coronavirus cases reported today.

It comes as there were 656 people in hospital with the disease by 8am today, which is a decrease of 26 on yesterday.

There is also one fewer person in ICU today, with the figure now at 84.

On December 31, there were 20,110 new cases of the disease.

Health officials, including Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, have said the true number of new cases is likely to be higher, due to the strain on the PCR testing system and the difficulty people are having to book tests.

It has brought massive strain on the healthcare system.

Today, the Mater Hospital was forced to appeal to the public to avoid its Emergency Department (ED).

“Hospital services are under extreme pressure due to a combination of large numbers of people contracting Covid, high numbers of presentations at the ED and high levels of staff absenteeism due to Covid-19,” a statement said.

“Patients who are presenting at our ED with non-urgent conditions are unfortunately experiencing lengthy waiting times to be seen.”

The hospital said where possible it advises patients with non-emergency conditions to seek assistance from other parts of the health service such as minor injury units or their GP.

“However, any patient who is in need of emergency hospital care will of course be seen and the Mater would urge such patients not to delay and to seek such care.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this causes to the public and thank them for their understanding and cooperation.”

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) today reiterated its calls for hospitals to take the decision to curtail all non-emergency activity and for greater measures to be taken to reduce workplace transmission of Covid-19 in hospitals.

“Our fragile health services are being held together at the moment by an exhausted nursing workforce who are experiencing high levels of burnout.

“Annual leave is being cancelled by many in order to fill rosters and many nurses are reporting that they are staying beyond their scheduled work hours to care for patients.

“Our public hospital system is too small to cope with servicing emergency care, Covid care and elective treatments.

“It is time for the State to step up and ensure that all capacity that can be gained from the private sector is used,” said general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

She said the HSE and political system has a responsibility “to an exhausted medical workforce” to ensure their workplaces are as safe as they can be.

“There must be no tolerance for hospital overcrowding while a highly transmissible airborne virus is making its way around our hospitals. Improvements to air quality in our hospitals must be a priority.

“As we head into what is traditionally a chaotic time in our hospitals, the normal January patterns of overcrowding in our hospitals should not be tolerated.

“Our hospitals cannot operate on goodwill of staff alone, we need and urgent capacity plan from the HSE.”

In a post on Twitter Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that 2021 was a difficult year for Ireland and the world “as we faced and met the ongoing challenge of Covid-19.”

“Wishing everyone a happy and productive 2022, a year where we will see even greater advances in our fight against this pandemic,” he said.

Last evening the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced a further acceleration of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

From Sunday, 2 January all of those aged 16 and older who are eligible to receive a booster vaccine can access this service through HSE vaccination centres. GPs and community pharmacies will also be providing this service, on an appointment basis.

Vaccination centres will commence appointment-based clinics for those aged under 30 in designated centres. Initial appointments became available for booking last evening and additional centres will be offering this service over the coming week.

The Department of Health said GPs and pharmacies will also continue to vaccinate people by appointment.

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