Ireland will need to use “reasonable precautions” like face masks to tackle Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, according to a public health expert.
As case numbers continue to climb in Irish hospitals, Professor of Health Systems at DCU Anthony Staines said people need to continue to take care not to catch the virus - even after vaccination.
There were 1,175 confirmed cases in hospitals on Sunday, another increase after 153 new cases and 45 discharges were recorded over the last 24 hours. 49 people are being treated in intensive care units.
With mask-wearing no longer required by law in any setting, Prof Staines said people should continue to wear them on public transport as a “sensible and reasonable” precaution.
“I think it’s going to be very important for really the foreseeable future to take sensible and reasonable precautions against Covid,” he told Newstalk radio.
“That’s going to mean things like obviously vaccination first and foremost, but also things like ventilation, like working from home, socialising out of doors wherever possible, much wider use of air filtration and wider use of masks.”
Prof Staines expressed concern that the number of people requiring treatment in intensive care for Covid-19 might rise further over the coming weeks amid high levels of transmission.
The BA2 sub-variant of Omicron - currently causing a renewed surge in cases as it spreads in Europe - is likely already in Ireland, he said.
“It’s spreading fast everywhere they’re looking for it. We don’t do a lot of genetic sequencing in Ireland, but what we have been doing suggests that it’s mostly BA1 here,” he said.
“But BA2 certainly seems to be the dominant strain in the United Kingdom and across Europe, so I’d expect it would be BA2 here shortly, if it isn’t already.”
Figures relating to new case numbers are not due to be released until after the bank holiday weekend, with the latest figures seeing 14,096 new cases logged on Wednesday ahead of St Patrick’s Day.
The positivity rate of PCR testing had then soared to 38 per cent, while antigen tests continued to identify the bulk of new cases amid a major scaling-back of the country's test and trace system.
On Wednesday ahead of the extended weekend, the chief of the health service Paul Reid warned that Ireland must “get back to basics” on mask-wearing and vaccinations in order to halt a surge cases and increasing hospital numbers.
The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 in Ireland is now at the highest level seen in over a year.
It comes as a national day of commemoration for those who lost their lives to Covid-19 is taking place today.