Number of patients picking up Covid in hospital ‘significant’ – Holohan tells Donnelly in letter

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The number of patients admitted to hospital and ending up picking up Covid-19 there is significant, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned.

r Holohan’s comments, in his report last week, come before the number of confirmed patients with the virus rose to 515 yesterday, around half who have complications of the virus.

Some 28 are in intensive care, a stable level indicating vaccines are holding the line.

But Ireland is now in the middle of another Covid-19 summer wave and the spread is already impacting on society and service with the Abbey theatre in Dublin having to cancel performances due to to infections among its staff.

The National Symphony Orchestra has also cancelled its June 21 concert because so many musicians have been laid low by the virus.

In his report to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly on June 10 Dr Holohan said there “continues to be a significant number of hospital-acquired infections” and he warned the increase in Covid patients puts pressure on hospitals to provide care with other conditions.

Meanwhile, a group of HSE specialised contact tracers , who track down people who may have been exposed to the virus after an infected person comes to light, and who were involved in complex cases, are being stood down. It has sparked fears their expertise built up during the pandemic in reducing chains of transmission, may be lost.

The small group of highly-motivated Grade 4 staff, along with some part-time workers, regarded as as a “pillar” in infection control with the ability to react quickly to changes in Covid spread, will see their contracts terminated at the end of this month.

Although they are invited to apply for grade 3 positions it will mean a fall in salary of up to €18,000 for some experienced members of the team and some are expected to walk away.

They were involved in most complicated tracing exercises so far , including people in nursing homes and those who were found positive for the virus after post mortem and regard their termination as a major loss of knowledge built up during the pandemic.

Members of the team who were working with the HSE since 2020 have built up their skills and fear this will be lost not just in the current wave but the expected spike in cases over autumn and winter.

In response the HSE said at its peak when case levels were high it has 800 contact tracers.

A HSE spokesman said many of the tasks undertaken by specialist contact tracers are now managed across all teams and it has also developed the use of technology in this area.

It has employed five clinical nursing managers to provide clinical cover and support contact tracing teams dealing with specialised cases, he said.

Meanwhile a new study suggests Omicron is half as likely as other variants to cause long Covid.

The BA.4 and BA.5 variants driving the rise in cases this summer here are offshoots of Omicron.

King’s College London studied 56,003 British adults infected between December and March this year, when Omicron was dominant, comparing them with 41,361 cases when delta was prevalent

The analysis showed 4.4 pc of cases during the period of the Omicron variant reporting long Covid, compared with 10.8 pc of cases during the time of the Delta variant.

Researchers said it showed that the odds of experiencing long Covid were up to 50 pc lower during the Omicron.

But one in 23 have longer-term symptoms.Claire Steves, from King’s College London said:  “The Omicron variant appears substantially less likely to cause long Covid but still one in 23 people who catch Covid-19 go on to have symptoms for more than four weeks.”

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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