Fears are growing that Ireland could have up to 2,000 cases of coronavirus a day by the end of the month amid an earlier-than-expected surge caused by the Delta variant, causing “exceptional” growth among younger people.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Friday warned the Seanad of “roaring” case growth.
He told The Irish Times that modelling by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) shows “a wide range of cases for the end of July, with the maximum being around 2,000 cases a day”.
Another senior Government source told The Irish Times that the threshold of 2,000 cases a day could in fact be breached earlier than the end of the month.
A return to January levels of pressure on healthcare is not expected, but political sources are increasingly wary of the impact of infections – especially among the unvaccinated – on hospitals.
If cases hit 2,000 per day, hospital admissions could be in the region of 40 per day, with four to five deaths, Government figures believe.
Sources said charts showing growth among 16 to 18-year-olds are “vertical”. Nphet member Prof Philip Nolan said case growth in this age cohort was “exceptional”, while rates among 19 to 24-year-olds are also moving quickly.
We are seeing very rapid increases in incidence in 16-18, 19-24 and 25-34 year olds. The rise in those aged 16-18 years is exceptional. Please do everything you can to stay safe, and to encourage and support those around you to stay safe too. pic.twitter.com/drofQphJVn
— Professor Philip Nolan (@PhilipNolan_SFI) July 16, 2021
Mr Donnelly urged people to act in line with public health advice, emphasising the serious risks, especially for the unvaccinated: “It’s time once again to be super careful.”
As the Oireachtas rose for its summer break against the backdrop of rapidly rising infections, sources said the Government plans to move ahead with the reopening of indoor dining for vaccinated people and resumption of international travel.
A further 1,173 infections were reported in the Republic on Friday, with 79 patients in hospital and 23 in intensive care. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said just over 50 per cent of Friday’s cases were in those aged between 19 to 34-years-old. In Northern Ireland a further 1,380 people tested positive for coronavirus.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said there is concern about rising case numbers, even though vaccines provided a “strong line of defence that we didn’t have previously”.
Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE lead on contact tracing, said demand for testing and tracing services was increasing. She said antigen testing would be used for close contacts, if required.