The “worst is yet to come” with regard to the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations, according to the Irish College of General Practitioners' Covid-19 spokesperson.
Dr Mary Favier has warned there is a two-week lag between people testing positive and needing hospitalisation.
She told RTÉ Radio‘s Today show this was “very concerning” as the numbers attending testing continued to rise.
Dr Favier pointed out that in her own GP practice there is a 50 per cent positivity rate in Covid-19 tests.
There had been a “big surge in requests for tests” prior to Christmas and she had advised people to self-isolate for 14 days who had accused her of “spoiling their Christmas”.
Those people were now calling “feeling very unwell,” which indicated there was a much more serious problem, she said.
Dr Favier warned the hospital system was going to have a difficult time “staying upright.”
Her comments come as the number of people currently in hospital with the virus have surpassed those recorded at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave.
There are currently 921 people with Covid-19 being treated in Irish hospitals this morning - the highest number since the pandemic began – with 75 people in intensive care.
Though Ireland has “surge capacity” in its health system for up to 450 critical care beds, intensive care consultant Dr Catherine Motherway has warned this is not a scenario staff want to be in, with surge capacity beds not having “as good an outcome” as standard ICU.
In light of soaring infection rates and requests for testing, Dr Favier urged people to reduce movement “and just stay at home.”
There needed to be a national discussion on the issue of childcare, she added. It frequently “falls to women” to take responsibility for childcare and stay out of work.
This was going to have a “significant impact” on the health service, as 80 per cent of health care workers are women.
Dr Favier also called for allowances to be made for children with special needs or disadvantaged children, with education services to remain open for them.
Healthcare workers should also be prioritised in the list of essential workers, she said. It was not right that they were “15th” on the list during a pandemic. “That list needs some prioritisation.”