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concern raised Two-thirds of Covid deaths in December linked to outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan highlighted the deaths recorded in care settings in an unpublished letter sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on December 28.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) with Nphet colleagues at a Covid-19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) with Nphet colleagues at a Covid-19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan (centre) with Nphet colleagues at a Covid-19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

TWO-thirds of Covid-19 deaths in December were related to outbreaks of the virus in hospitals and nursing homes.

There have been 101 deaths from coronavirus recorded this month, with 33 associated with outbreaks in hospitals and the same number again linked to nursing homes.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan highlighted the deaths recorded in care settings in an unpublished letter sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on December 28.

It came after Dr Holohan earlier this month raised concerns about the rate of infection and deaths in hospitals.

In a letter sent to the minister on December 10, the chief medical officer said there was “persistently high incidence” of Covid-19 among healthcare workers and healthcare settings, “including acute hospitals with significant numbers of associated cases and deaths”.

He said concerns raised should not be “interpreted as any criticism” of those working in hospitals but “rather underlines the importance of continued focus on optimising the overall system such that is the principles agreed by Nphet”.

At the time of the letter there were 53 open coronavirus clusters in 21 acute hospitals. The clusters were linked to around 1,000 new cases and resulted in 63 people dying from Covid-19.

In one week alone, seven clusters in hospitals were linked to 91 new cases. Similar figures were not provided in Dr Holohan’s letter this week.

However, he did highlight that there were 360 people with confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospital as of December 27, which was a 90pc increase on the 190 people in hospital 16 days earlier on December 12.

Yesterday, Nphet reported there were 455 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, with 37 of those in intensive care units.

The country has been put under Level 5 restrictions for a month from today which will see household visits prohibited and a 5km travel ban introduced.

The new restrictions were introduced due to increasing concerns about the rise in new cases and the emergence of new strains of the virus from England and South Africa.

In his most recent letter, Dr Holohan also warned schools and creches may not be able to reopen if urgent action was not taken by the Government to reduce the spread of virus.

He said Nphet’s “overarching objective” was protecting the vulnerable, ensuring safe delivery of health services and allowing childcare and schools to remain open safely.

“Given the extent to which the epidemic is now accelerating (and notwithstanding the added but currently unknowable additional risks posed by the UK and South African variants), there is a real risk that the continued protection of all of these core priorities will be jeopardised in the short term,” he said.

He noted the English strain of the virus can spread more quickly but said there is no evidence it causes “more severe disease”. “Vaccine experts are confident that coronavirus vaccines will be able to blockthe new variant, although that has to be confirmed by laboratory experiments that are now under way,” he added.

Dr Holohan said people affected by the South African strain have a “higher concentration of the virus in their upper respiratory tract” which may make it more transmissible. He said tests were ongoing in relation to the effect the vaccine will have on this strain.


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