Professor Luke O’Neill warns stronger measures will be required if Covid-19 ICU figures surge as 3,805 new cases confirmed

Immunologist Prof Luke O’Neill is calling on government to show “strong leadership” in the face of surging cases.

his comes as 3,805 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Department of Health this afternoon.

As of this morning, there are 106 Covid-19 patients in intensive care as hospital figures climbed once again to 582 – the highest figure since February 25 of this year.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid revealed that out of the 106 patients with the virus in ICU, 71 of those are on ventilation.

There are a further 300 Covid patients receiving “enhanced supports,” Mr Reid added.

These include treatment in high dependency units and with respiratory supports.

Trinity College’s Professor O’Neill said cases will definitely rise further and if ICU figures hit 150, then stronger measures will be required “no doubt”.

He said if the numbers keep increasing, further restrictions on society will be needed “for definite”.

Prof O’Neill said the public were crying out for clearer guidance and not messages like, “have five people around to your house instead of ten”.

Prof O’Neill said “we simply don’t know” what’s behind the surge in cases in Ireland despite the fact the country has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world.

“Every Western European country is in trouble with these numbers anyway, this is not surprising as it’s a respiratory virus so it will go up in the winter, so we’re all in the same boat in that respect.

“I think we need strong leadership now, most of all. This is going to be tough and there’s no question now that numbers are going to rise for the foreseeable future.

“The ICU beds is the key metric, let’s face it. They’re saying if that gets to 150 then we’re going to have to act more strongly. At the moment it’s around 100. If it gets to 150 then we’re in a far more serious situation and hospitalisation figures are also rising so we need strong leadership to tell the people what to do,” Prof O’Neill said on the Brendan O’Connor show on RTÉ Radio One.

“I think people want clearer guidelines,” Prof O’Neill said.

Prof O’Neill said he believes a lockdown would be a “complete failure” but said further restrictions on society may be needed to protect our healthcare system as if that collapses, “it’s a complete disaster for everybody”.

The reintroduction of restrictions is happening all over Europe, Prof O’Neill said, but added Ireland probably shouldn’t go the route of Austria which has instituted a lockdown for unvaccinated people. This would lead to social conflict, Prof O’Neill said.

Prof O’Neill said Covid is a seasonal virus “for definite” and that a minor return to some restrictions may be needed for the next two or three months.

“Then, when we get to February or March it’s a different story,” he said.

The biggest surprise is that immunity against Covid-19 wanes so quickly, Prof O’Neill said, adding that Ireland should exude the same level of intensity with boosters to people over 50 in an attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid warned antigen tests are not a “silver bullet.”

Hospitals would be unable to “cope” if socialising was not reduced dramatically, Mr Reid advised, reiterating a call made for individual responsibility.

Hospitals across Ireland are, he said, seeing “extreme levels of sickness.”

And Emergency Department admissions have risen 20pc since 2019, the last normal year before lockdowns.

Antigen testing is for the first time, being recommended by NPHET for those who attend bars and nightclubs regularly.

And the tests are also due to be rolled out for schools. However, this would not be a solution to the surge, Mr Reid felt.

He told This Week on RTÉ Radio 1 the HSE was working with the Department of Education and Minister for Education Norma Foley, to prepare schools for antigen testing.

Proposals were due to be brought next week. However, he added, “caution” regarding the testing, adding it was not a “silver bullet” to rising case numbers.

“The reality of what we need now is everybody individually to get back to the basics,” he said.

“Retract from the level of activity that we are carrying out, it’s putting that level of strain on the health system, that we can’t cope with if it carries on at the level it’s at.”

A cross departmental working group is due to meet today (Monday) to examine all aspects of antigen testing.

“We have a health system under heightened levels of strain due to covid,” Mr Reid said.

“But our hospitals, in particular, are now suffering severe distress. Consultants want me to relay it, we are in a very grim situation with our ICUs and the level of sickness we are treating.”

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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