Covid-19 case numbers in the Republic could rise by up to 10 per cent as the testing of close contacts resumes, Professor Philip Nolan has said.
The senior member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and chair of its modelling advisory group said numbers are set to inflate over the coming week.
The testing of close contacts was suspended at the end of December, in a move to support the overwhelmed test and trace system amid a third surge of the virus.
Earlier this week, the HSE said that the testing of close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases was set to resume on Friday.
“That might inflate those numbers by as much as 10 per cent. It is entirely possible that over the coming week we will see a bump in the figures as we detect those people,” Prof Nolan said.
“And I would just say to people, don’t be disappointed, don’t be put off if we get stuck at around 1,300 [or] 1,400 cases a day for a period of time.
“See it for what it is – detecting cases that we would have been missing for the last three or four weeks.”
There have been over 100,000 cases of the virus confirmed in the Republic in January alone, with the current five day average seeing just under 1,300 new cases each day.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned about the remaining level of infection, despite the recent decrease in case numbers.
More cases had been reported in the month of January than throughout all of 2020, Dr Holohan said.
Hospitals remain under pressure, with Sunday seeing an increase in Covid-positive inpatients from 1,494 to 1,515 – 211 of whom are intensive care units (ICU).
ICUs across the country will remain close to their limits for some time despite falling hospital admissions related to Covid-19, the HSE chief warned on Saturday.
Saturday saw a further 79 deaths and 1,414 cases of the virus confirmed in the Republic.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called for calm in the race to vaccinate populations against Covid-19.
Mr Martin was speaking in the wake of a move by the European Union to use a post-Brexit mechanism to interfere with supply lines of the jab.
On Saturday, comments from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste seemed to suggest the Government parties have differing opinions as to the progression of the Covid-19 vaccination timeline in Ireland.
According to Leo Varadkar, the target of vaccinating every adult in the country by September can still be met, while Micheál Martin said meeting that target is now unlikely — adding that it may be the end of the year before all Irish citizens are vaccinated.
Over 99 per cent of people offered the Covid-19 vaccine in the first allocation groups have chosen to receive the first dose, according the HSE.