The incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland is now 10 times higher than it was when the Government eased public health restrictions in December, the chief medical officer has said.
Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland was making “clear progress” when it came to reducing the incidence rate but still has a “very large burden of infection”.
His comments come after Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that level 5 restrictions will likely continue “well into” February.
Speaking at the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) briefing on Thursday Dr Holohan said: “On December 1, when we last eased restrictions, our five-day moving average was 261 cases per day, today it is almost 10 times that number at 2,430 cases per day.
“It is evident that the population is working as one to reduce contacts and interrupt further transmission of the disease. However, we are witnessing the effects of high levels of community transmission through our hospital and ICU admissions and reported deaths.
“We need to continue to work together to drive this infection down and bring the disease back under control.”
It comes as the chief executive of the HSE said the Covid-19 situation in hospitals is at the “highest level of concern that we’ve ever had”.
Thursday saw a further 51 deaths due to Covid-19 and 2,608 new cases of Covid-19 recorded by the Department of Health.
Of the cases notified today:— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 21, 2021
â¢1,230 are men / 1,346 are women
â¢55% are under 45 years of age
â¢The median age is 42 years old
â¢1,019 in Dublin, 204 in Cork, 135 in Donegal, 132 in Galway, 131 in Kildare, and the remaining 987 cases are spread across all other counties.
Of the new cases 1,019 were in Dublin, 204 in Cork, 135 in Donegal, 132 in Galway, 131 in Kildare, and the remaining 987 cases are spread across all other counties.
There were a total of 1,949 people in hospital with the virus on Thursday morning with a record 214 people with the disease in intensive care units.
The 14-day incidence rate of the disease now stands at 1,141 cases per 100,000 population.
The reproduction number has reduced to between 0.5 and 0.8.
It is simply a level of infection that's way too highDr Tony Holohan
Asked how long Covid-19 restrictions may remain in place Dr Holohan said Nphet did not have any reason to disagree with the Taoiseach Micheal Martin’s expectations.
Dr Holohan said: “We have a very significant burden of infection. Looking at infection levels two weeks ago: they were very high, clearly very high.
“We’ve now reduced substantially in relative terms since then but we have to look back to the beginning of December. We’re still 10 times higher.”
“It is simply a level of infection that’s way too high,” he added.
“We have further progress we have to make.”
The Taoiseach told Virgin Media’s Ireland AM on Thursday that transmission rates of the virus were still too high to ease restrictions.
The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 is expected to meet on Monday to finalise plans to extend the current restrictions before Cabinet ministers approve the measures at a meeting on Tuesday.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn told the briefing that more than 500 people had died of Covid-19 in Ireland so far this month.
He warned that the trend was expected to continue over the coming days.
“Sadly so far in the month of January there have been 532 deaths associated with Covid-19,” he said. “This compares with a total of 174 such deaths in the month of December and 164 such deaths in November.”
It emerged on Thursday that the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had warned the Government last week that the death toll was likely to be up to 1,000 by the end of the month.
In a letter to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on January 14, Dr Holohan said the latest modelling data suggested that there could be at least 25-30 deaths a day.