The CEO of the Saolta hospital group, Tony Camavan has said that the situation at Galway University Hospital (GUH) deteriorated overnight and the hospital is now under significant pressure.
At present there are 133 Covid-19 patients in GUH with 17 in ICU, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.
There was still an upward curve in the number of cases, he added, and in recent days the hospital moved to Surge Level 3 to increase capacity in intensive care beds as required.
However, he cautioned that this was dependent on the availability of staff.
Staff availability was a significant issue with 387 staff at GUH currently on Covid leave, which represented almost 10% of the workforce.
This week there was a change in the number of days recommended for self-isolation from 14 to 10 and that will assist in terms of staffing rosters.
More staff were expected to return to the work at the weekend, but there would be a “critical” two day period before then with great pressure on staff.
Covid patients were across all age groups, but the “most devastation” was being experienced by the older population, he said.
The move from Level 5 to Level 3 in December and then people coming together over Christmas had all led to the increase in cases, he said, along with the new strains.
By and large, people were compliant with the restrictions, but the level of non-compliance was concerning, he said.
“It’s really important that people continue to do what needs to be done.”
The focus should be on the existing measures and ensuring that they were applied rigorously - especially in areas such as Tuam, Oranmore and Galway City where the levels remained high.
Immunology expert Professor Tomás Ryan has said that there are still too many people moving around and that the Government should consider narrowing the definition of essential workers and reducing the 5km limit to 2km.
The associate professor in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin told Newstalk Breakfast that the Government should also consider mass antigen testing for serial testing of healthcare workers.
It was unknown how many infections were coming through hospitals and into the communities. A time frame for Level 5 restrictions was not the main issue he said.
"The question needs to be when can we get control of the virus - when we get control of the virus, then we can start to open up.”
The number of cases would need to be reduced to “about 10” per day, he said.
"When you get to that level of virus case number, that's in the zone where our test, trace and isolation infrastructure can manage it.”
The high number of cases could be down to the so-called UK variant, he said as it was “significantly more transmissible” and now made up “most of the virus population in Ireland”.
However, he acknowledged there was not “perfect surveillance” on that yet.
The public’s behaviour should be stricter as, based on traffic analysis, people were not restricting their movements as much as they did during the first lockdown.