Public health experts said there will be “peaks and troughs” of Covid-19 cases over the next few months, but they do not expect to track “huge waves” due to the Irish public's caution.
Professor Philip Nolan, who models the spread of the disease for the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), said he does not expect to see a single peak in this fourth wave of the pandemic.
The Nphet member said that a “pent-up” need to socialise and travel earlier this month caused cases to soar, but said the numbers appear to be settling.
He said, however, that it will be some time before health experts can determine the underlying pattern of growth in cases.
There’s grounds for optimism because it seems to me... people are very clearly reading the risk
“I do think there’s grounds for optimism because it seems to me, quite clearly, that after 18 months or so people are very clearly reading the risk,” he added.
“If our collective behaviour starts to push case numbers up, people collectively become more cautious and that’s why I don’t expect to track any of these huge waves.
“As soon as those waves start, people become more cautious.
“It’s much more likely that we’ll see kind of increases and decreases in incidence over the coming weeks.
“I remain optimistic that collectively we will do our best to keep this under control by adherence to the simple measures.
“We don’t think we’re going to see a single peak. We think we’re going to see peaks and troughs out into the September and October period, really depending upon how careful we are going about our daily business.”
Counties of concern
Data produced by Nphet shows the 14-day incidence rate is particularly high in Donegal and Louth.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there are five counties that are reporting more than 400 cases over the past seven days, including Dublin, Donegal, Cork, Galway and Louth.
He said that most countries across the EU as well as the UK have seen a stabilisation or improvement in the last week, except Ireland and France.
Dr Glynn said the outlook for Ireland looks uncertain for the next few weeks.
Prof Nolan also said there has been an increase in the number of people admitted to hospital.
On average, 26 people are being admitted to hospital per day, which is double what it was two weeks ago.
He added that the number of admissions were fewer than they would expect, given the number of cases in recent weeks. There are fewer than 20 admissions per 1,000 cases.
'A disease of younger people'
Prof Nolan also said the length of stay in hospital is shortening which suggests vaccine protection.
“This is at the moment very much disease of younger people, the incidence is dominated by those aged 19 to 24, followed by those aged 13 to 18, but in that age group it’s mostly 16 and 17-year-olds, followed by those aged 25 to 34,” he added.
“Most of the cases that we’re seeing are in younger unvaccinated people.
“Even though numbers in hospital and ICU are increasing, they’re increasing far less than they would do if we didn’t have so much of the population protected through vaccination.”
That gives us a lot of reasons for optimism that the conditions that [will] allow us to move away from some of the restrictions that still remain in place can be met
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that Ireland has one of the highest rates of vaccine uptake in the world.
He said Ireland could be “weeks away” from lifting further restrictions on society.
“That gives us a lot of reasons for optimism that the conditions that we think will need to be satisfied to allow us to move away from some of the restrictions that still remain in place can be met,” Dr Holohan added.
“Obviously that will depend also on factors that relate to the disease and the disease behaviour, and our protections help us in that regard, but obviously the observation of the experience we have over the course of the coming weeks will be what’s important.”
He added: “I think, given the progress we’re making in terms of vaccination notwithstanding where we’re at with the disease, we think that we might, in the coming weeks, be in a situation where we’re able to reach the kinds of requirements to enable us to move away from some of the economic and social restrictions.”
A further 1,408 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Ireland, the Department of Health said.
A total of 152 patients in hospital have Covid-19, with 26 in intensive care.