Ireland logged 14,549 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, after the Minister for Health said under-reporting meant the true number of cases each week was likely “several hundred thousand”.
5,962 cases were confirmed by PCR test, while 8,587 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal. There were 1,605 patients in hospital with the disease as of this morning, with 50 people in intensive care.
The number in hospital could top 2,200 within the next 10 days, according to a report in The Irish Times, amid increasing pressure on the Government to re-examine restrictions.
Minister Stephen Donnelly last night told an online meeting of Fianna Fáil members that there were likely several hundred thousand cases of Covid-19 every week, with daily numbers several times higher than those being tracked by PCR and antigen tests.
He said the extra transmissibility of the BA2 sub-variant of Omicron means “quite extreme measures” would be needed to contain it.
It comes as the Emergency Department (ED) Taskforce, which monitors overcrowding in hospitals, wrote to Mr Donnelly seeking fresh public advice amid concern about rising case numbers and a “chaotic situation” in Irish hospitals.
'The right thing to do'
The HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said on Tuesday it was up to the Government to make a decision about mandatory mask wearing, but that the public already knew wearing masks was the right thing to do.
Just because mask wearing was no longer mandatory did not mean that people should not do it, he said. The public did not need a body such as Nphet “to tell us the right thing to do” - they already knew.
People were also being reinfected with the new variant, he warned, at a rate of 10 per cent in the UK. Dr Henry said it was anticipated that numbers would continue to rise in the next few weeks and would then plateau.
Infectious diseases expert Professor Sam McConkey meanwhile said there is no evidence that a return to strict restrictions would halt the spread of the highly contagious BA2 variant, but people should be wearing masks in indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings.
On Monday, HSE chief Paul Reid said the experience of other countries in Europe was that the current variant waned after a while, so that meant Ireland was likely to be dealing with the current wave of the virus “well into April”.