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Chief medic fears a new year rise in ICU patients and deaths

Intensive care numbers highest since spring, with 227 new cases yesterday

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Dr Holohan issued warning

Dr Holohan issued warning

Colin Keegan

Dr Holohan issued warning

The number of patients seriously ill with Covid-19 who had to be admitted to intensive care in a 24-hour period is now at its highest level since the spring.

The news comes amid another warning about a potential Christmas and New Year surge in infections, leaving more people facing life-threatening complications and the risk of death.

Eight more people were admitted to intensive care yesterday, bringing the number in need of the highest level of treatment to 38.

A further 224 patients are in hospital, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said.

Five more deaths were reported, and the daily number of new cases continued to cause concern, with 227 people diagnosed with the virus yesterday.

However, despite fears about the spread of the virus, the Department of Health and the HSE were unable to say how many over-65s in long-term care in public facilities - including nursing homes - will be offered the Covid-19 vaccine if it is approved later this month.

This is despite this high-risk group being prioritised for vaccination.

The task force report on the proposed rollout of the vaccine is due to be presented to Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday.

It raises new concerns about the ability of the HSE to properly handle the complexities of the delivery and administration of the vaccine.

There are also no figures on the number of frontline healthcare workers who will be offered the vaccine.

A spokesman for Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents private nursing homes, said it is planning for 28,000 over-65s and 32,000 staff to be offered the jab.

Outbreaks

The vaccine would be key to protecting these older people in congregated settings from contracting the virus, developing serious illness and ending up in intensive care.

It comes as the number of Covid-19 outbreaks in private homes rose last week after the lifting of lockdown - up to 288 compared with 262 the previous week.

School outbreaks also in- creased, to 14 from 12, but they fell in hospitals from 10 to seven.

In meat, fish and poultry plants, where there is serial testing, 36 staff were diagnosed with the virus last week, while 19 employees in other workplaces were also diagnosed.

"Covid-19 is still an extremely infectious disease that has the potential to lead to hospitalisation and even intensive care admissions," Dr Holohan said in regard to a potential January surge.

"Ireland has managed to suppress Covid-19 to the lowest incidence levels in the EU in recent weeks.

"We have managed to keep up our safe behaviours and worked to protect each other throughout the pandemic.

"If we do not continue to suppress the disease, we will very quickly see a surge in infections leading to an increase in hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and, tragically, deaths.

"We are actively planning to begin vaccinating people in early 2021.

"We cannot afford to drop our guard now."

Yesterday's cases included 70 in Dublin, 26 in Donegal, 19 in Limerick, 14 in Louth and 14 in Kilkenny.


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