Reintroduction of public health measures sought amid Covid-19 surge

The Emergency Department Taskforce is to request that public health measures are reconsidered by the Government.

It follows a meeting of the taskforce this afternoon to discuss the pressures on emergency departments in hospitals.

The taskforce includes representatives of hospital groups, the Department of Health, patient advocates, staff bodies and the HSE.

RTÉ News understands a letter will be sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recommending that he urgently convenes a meeting of public health advisors to consider any and all measures that may now be appropriate to protect the health services.

“There is general concern now about the effect this latest surge of Covid is having,” said Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, who is co-chair of the taskforce.

“The ICU numbers aren’t increasing but we have a high incidence of admission that the hospitals simply can’t cope with and that requires public health measures, to ensure those who are so sick, that are being admitted, can actually get treatment.”

The taskforce wants specific public health measures to be introduced to deal with the “chaotic situation” in hospitals.

The INMO believes measures that have been relaxed, such as mask wearing, would be “very simple to reintroduce”.

The Minister for Health has been urged to respond publicly by tomorrow to the letter.

“The level of concern, based on the information we have requires public health measures,” said Ms Ni Sheaghdha.

“We have public health experts and we expect them to … recommend to Government immediate steps that must be taken right now because this surge is so serious.”

Almost 40,000 Covid cases over past three days

The healthcare system is facing “huge stress” as a result of the latest virus surge, according to Health Service Executive Chief Paul Reid.

It comes as the Department of Health confirmed almost 40,000 new Covid-19 infections over the past three days.

Mr Reid told RTÉ’s News At One there are 1,625 coronavirus positive patients in hospital at present – a rise of 56 on yesterday – 54 of whom are in ICU.

The highest hospital numbers occurred in January 2021 and the HSE is “getting close to those levels now”.

When asked if this Covid-19 wave might be peaking, Mr Reid said there were no indications or modelling to suggest there was a downward trend.

“In fact, all our experience is that it is increasing … in terms of the scale of transmission in the community, but particularly in terms of the numbers of hospitalisations we’re seeing,” he added.

Mr Reid said there is evidence in other countries that it would peak in a few weeks, but from a hospital perspective they expect to be dealing with this wave “well throughout April”.