Spread of Delta variant accelerating ‘much quicker’ than expected, HSE warns

Spread Of Delta Variant Accelerating ‘Much Quicker’ Than Expected, Hse Warns
The test positivity rate has soared to as high as 15% in some centres around the country. Photo: PA
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By James Ward, PA

The spread of the Delta variant is accelerating “much quicker” than expected, with Ireland on course for 1,000 daily cases, the HSE has said.

It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar urged unvaccinated people to treat the pandemic “as seriously as you did at any point”.

The test and trace service is now “in surge” with more than 20,000 tests being carried out each day, while the positivity rate has soared to as high as 15 per cent in some test centres around the country.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said: “Certainly the early indications were that we would reach above 1000 cases per day towards the end of July.

“So it seems to have accelerated much quicker that we thought it would. We are seeing about 15 per cent positivity on some sites across the country.


“But it is spreading. It’s not targeted in just a few sites.

“There’s a higher numbers of cases, higher positivity and higher numbers of close contracts, which are accelerating it beyond what might have been predicted.

Mr Reid said he has “real concern” over the increase in case numbers, and warned if transmission levels get too high it will also impact the vaccinated population.

“We do know a significant proportion of the population are protected through having been vaccinated.

“But we have a significant portion of the population who aren’t protected,” he said.

“The challenge for everybody concerned is to make sure that level of sickness don’t get into the community at a level that breaks down this wall of protection for those people who are protected.”

He added: “For those people who are vaccinated, we know it gives people protection around hospitalisation, ICU and mortality.

“A high level of protection. But it doesn’t give us protection in terms of getting the virus.

“When it’s at such high levels it can break through into those people who are protected as well.”


Niamh O’Beirne, head of the HSE’s test and tracing operation, said the number of people coming forward for testing had jumped by 25 per cent in a single day.

She urged people to comply with advice given by the test and trace team.

She added: “We can say that the test and tracing service is now in surge, exceeding 20,000 tests every day.

“Take our tracing calls, it’s really important to take the calls promptly and it’s really important to follow the advice.

“It’s much harder at this stage of the pandemic, but the importance of restricting your movements and taking the advice, is really critical to containing the onward spread of the disease.

“Over the last seven days the positivity rate is 5.9 per cent across community sites, but yesterday it was over 7.8 per cent.

“In some sites we do have positivity levels of 15 per cent in different parts of the country.”

Unvaccinated are 'high risk'

Earlier in the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar issued a public appeal to people who are not fully vaccinated, urging them not to socialise indoors, and warning of a rise in hospital admissions and deaths.


He said: “You’re very high risk. Treat this pandemic as seriously as you did at any point. We’re entering a new phase of the pandemic.

“We have vaccines now which has weakened the connection between cases and hospitalisations and deaths, but not broken it. And we have a virus now that is more infectious than ever before.”

Mr Varadkar said that at the outset of the pandemic, the message to older people and the most vulnerable to stay at home had saved lives.

“But things have changed. Now unvaccinated people and people who are not fully vaccinated are the most vulnerable” he said.

“They are at greater risk than ever before in this pandemic because this variant of the virus is so transmissible.”

He said there was a “major surge” in cases that was almost entirely among the young and those who are not fully vaccinated.

He added: “I ask them over the summer, at least until you’re fully vaccinated, please avoid socialising indoors.

“Please keep your social contacts to minimum. Please avoid non-essential foreign travel.

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“Please wear a mask, even outdoors, and in crowded scenarios.

“People who are unvaccinated are more at risk over the next few weeks that at any point in this pandemic. It is not over.”

Meanwhile, it has been announced that people aged 25 to 29 will be able to register for their vaccine through the HSE portal from Friday.

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