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As many as 500,000 people may have been infected with Covid-19 last week, the chief medical officer has said.
In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Dr Tony Holohan estimated that between one in 10 and one in 20 people had picked up the virus over the seven-day period from December 29 to January 5.
As Ireland has a population of around five million, this would represent up to half a million positive cases.
The estimate is based on an official seven-day incidence rate of 2,876 per 100,000, while factoring in “constraints on testing and undetected infections”.
In summary, the overall epidemiological situation in Ireland continues to give rise for concern, noting however, some initial positive indications in terms of markers of disease severity which will continue to be closely monitored over the coming days and weeks
Dr Tony Holohan
Nphet has recommended to Government that no additional restrictions are required but that current measures should remain in place until January 30.
A total of 136,960 confirmed cases were reported that week, representing an 83% increase from the previous week, when 74,931 cases were reported.
Dr Holohan also noted a 363% increase compared with the last Nphet meeting on December 16 2021, when 29,595 cases were reported.
In the letter, seen by the PA news agency, Dr Holohan said the high incidence rate has not yet translated to increased mortality or ICU admissions.
He said: “Covid-19 mortality has remained relatively stable.
“It should be noted there has been a recent increase in outbreaks reported in settings with vulnerable populations and this is being closely monitored.
“The current epidemiological assessment indicates that the recent increase in incidence and hospitalisation has not as yet translated into increased critical care admissions or mortality, with potential contributory factors including the age profile of recent cases, the protection conferred by immunity (both vaccine induced and natural) in preventing or delaying progression to severe disease, and lower intrinsic virulence of Omicron compared with previous variants.”
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) January 11, 2022
While he said the current situation is a cause for concern, Dr Holohan said “no additional measures are indicated at this time” and said current measures should remain until January 30.
“In summary, the overall epidemiological situation in Ireland continues to give rise for concern, noting however, some initial positive indications in terms of markers of disease severity which will continue to be closely monitored over the coming days and weeks,” he said.
“This summary shows that the profile of the disease, over the past three weeks, is broadly in keeping with the modelling projections presented to the NPHET at its meeting of 16th December 2021.
“The NPHET agreed… that the measures the Government has put in place until 30th January should be maintained until that date, and that no additional measures are indicated at this time.”