DUBLIN (Reuters) – The number of patients in Irish hospitals with COVID-19 has exceeded the peak set during the first wave of infections, official data showed on Wednesday, ahead of a government meeting to consider new public health restrictions.
Health officials have blamed increased socialising around Christmas after the government reopened most of the economy for a rapid shift to one of the fastest rates of infection in the European Union. Previously, the country had one of the lowest rates.
COVID-19 hospital admissions are rising by around 10% a day, taking the number of patients being treated to 921 on Wednesday, compared with the mid-April peak of 881.
Early on Wednesday, 76 patients were in intensive care units (ICU), having more than doubled in a week. The mid-April peak was 155.
Government ministers will meet on Wednesday to discuss measures, including stricter rules for travellers flying into Ireland and the closure of schools and non-essential construction.
The head of Ireland’s health service operator Paul Reid said on Tuesday that “our health Service is under real threat now”.
“We’re heading to the peak of hospitalisations as in the 1st Wave. Primary and GP (general practice) services are under relentless strain. Swabbing centres have positivity rates from 40 to 55%,” he said on Twitter.
On Monday, Reid said the rate of infections meant the total in hospitals could hit 2,500 this month, with between 250 and 430 in ICU.
Public hospitals can increase ICU capacity safely to 375 and the health service was again seeking to take over private hospital ICU beds for COVID-19 admissions, he said.
(Reporting by Graham Fahy; editing by Barbara Lewis)