Confusion over the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland abounded at a briefing this evening on the part of the National Public Health Emergency Team, as it emerged that Ireland’s total number of cases is more than 1,000 greater than previously thought.
Dr Tony Holohan, the chief medical officer, said that 25 further deaths had been recorded in Ireland as of early Friday afternoon, bringing the total in Ireland to 288.
However, the chief theme of the briefing was a long interchange with Dr Holohan as to how many confirmed cases there actually are after a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) suggested that Ireland’s figure is 8,089, more than 1,000 greater than that being reported by NPHET.
Three numbers were given, all of which Dr Holohan insisted were accurate.
Officially, NPHET said that 480 new cases had been recorded in the country, bringing the overall total to 7,054.
A second figure of 7,071, recorded by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) as at midnight on Wednesday was also delivered, followed by a final figure of 8,089.
The larger figure includes 1,035 test results delivered from German laboratories and is the most up-to-date one available, Dr Holohan said.
He stressed that the various numbers do not represent “ambiguity”, but rather the lower number is more accurate in terms of the number of new cases being reported on a day-by-day basis.
He said that many of the tests being returned from Germany date from many weeks past.
“We’re not trying to obscure them. Some of these tests go right back to the middle of March. If we reported them it would give a false sense of how the disease is increasing day on day,” Dr Holohan said.
The cumulative number of cases does not inform NPHET planning, he said. What does inform it are new cases, ICU admissions, and “unfortunately, the number of deaths”.
In terms of ICU admissions, the number of patients currently receiving critical care is 157, while 62 people have been discharged from intensive care to date, Dr Holohan said.
He said that 156 of the total number of deaths have either occurred in nursing homes or following referrals from same to a hospital.
Asked whether or not Ireland would have a functioning testing regime in place for the revised restrictions deadline of May 5, Dr Holohan said “that is certainly our intention”.
Regarding the fact that many of Ireland’s 49 testing centres appear to have ground to a halt, Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said that this is because the capacity to provide tests now outstrips demand since the threshold for testing was raised to those with an underlying condition.
Of the country’s largest such centre, at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, Dr Henry said “anyone who has sought an appointment there in recent days has gotten one”.
Regarding the extension of nationwide restrictions, Dr Holohan said that “we’ve saved many, many lives as a result of society’s efforts with these measures over the past number of weeks”.
However, the chief medical officer once more could not be drawn as to the number of people who are still waiting to get a test, or who are waiting for a result.
“I don’t have a precise number, but we’re not being evasive,” he said.