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Covid-19 Ireland: Record case numbers ‘much higher’ as Dr Tony Holohan warns everyone ‘potentially infectious’

The record number of Covid cases announced yesterday are “actually much higher” than reported, according to a leading Dublin medic.

A total of 16,428 new infections were reported yesterday with 619 being treated for the virus in hospital.

But Dr Cliona Ni Cheallaigh of the Department of Clinical Medicine at Trinity College has warned the true number of cases could be much greater due to the unavailability of PCR tests in the country.

“I would suspect that the true number of cases is actually much higher than that 16,000 which in itself is a pretty staggering number,” she told Morning Ireland on RTE.

As of 11am this morning there is only one PCR test slot available in the whole country, with none in Dublin.

Dr Ni Cheallaigh, who is also a Consultant Physician at St James’s Hospital, said it is sensible to assume people have Covid-19 if they have symptoms of the virus or have returned a positive antigen test.

She added that she believes the recommended isolation period should be reduced from 10 days as people are most infectious before and just after they develop symptoms.

She said: “Looking at it, maybe a seven day isolation period with a couple of tests there at the end.

“To make sure as much as possible that people have cleared the virus. It’s not an unreasonable thing to do.”

Dr Ni Cheallaigh also advised people to avoid mixing indoors in places such as pubs, restaurants or house parties.

She echoed comments made by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday, who warned that everyone in the country should “consider themselves potentially infectious”.

He said: “All of the latest epidemiological indicators are a cause of concern. In recent days, we have seen a rise in new admissions to hospital of Covid-19 patients, at levels not seen since January 2021. On two consecutive days this week, over 100 patients with Covid-19 were either admitted to hospital or received a “detected” test result while in hospital.

“Today, we are also reporting our highest ever number of confirmed cases in Ireland.

“The Omicron variant is accelerating rapidly in the community and given the very high levels of transmission of this new variant nationwide, every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious, and strictly adhere to the public health measures by washing hands regularly, keeping a safe distance from others, avoiding crowded places and reducing social contacts as much as possible.

“This time last year the public health advice was our only defence from Covid-19 and these measures are still central to our collective effort to minimise the spread of infection.

“However, as we move towards the New Year, we do so with the knowledge that 92% of our population over 16 years are now fully vaccinated, the roll out of the vaccine booster is well underway and the vaccine campaign for children aged 5-11 has commenced for those with underlying conditions.

“The Covid-19 vaccine and the vaccine booster provide good protection from Covid-19 infection. If you are not yet fully vaccinated or are yet to receive a booster dose, please take the vaccine as soon as it is available to you.

“The best way for all of us to stay safe and to continue to protect our loved ones over the coming weeks is to keep your social contacts as low as possible, avoid high risk activities and continue to follow all of the public health measures that we know can stop the spread of Covid-19.

“If you have travelled from overseas to spend time in Ireland it is important that you take an antigen test every day for five days.

“If you are planning to visit retail environments in the coming days, please choose retailers that adhere strongly to the public health guidance and leave any environment that feels unsafe.

“The current levels of infection we are experiencing mean that shopping in crowded environments, where physical distancing is not possible, should be seen as a high-risk activity and should be avoided unless absolutely essential – especially by those who are not yet fully vaccinated and boosted.”

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