'Back on track': Covid hospital numbers could be halved in three weeks, says Tánaiste

'Back on track': Covid hospital numbers could be halved in three weeks, says Tánaiste

Cork, Ireland. 6th Jan, 2021. Cork city was busy today as the country remains under level 5 COVID-19 restrictions. Picture: Andy Gibson.

The current number of Covid patients in hospital and ICU could be halved in three weeks' time, according to the Tánaiste.

Leo Varadkar says the country is 'back on track' in the battle against the virus, after case numbers soared last month.

Yesterday, 921 new cases and 23 additional deaths were confirmed.

There are 898 patients in public hospitals with the virus, down from over 2,000 less than a month ago and there are 173 in ICU.

The Tánaiste says those numbers should continue to drop sharply in the coming weeks.

"It's estimated that the R number is between 0.6 and 0.8 so if we stick with what we are doing, if we stay on track then we project that the number of people in hospital by the end of February/start of March would be around 500-600.

"So roughly half what it is now and the number of people in critical care between 70 and 100 - around half what it is now."

Mr Varadkar said it is clear that the numbers are heading in the right direction.

However, he said the problem is that even though the country is on the right track the numbers we are seeing now are not far off the peak of the first and second wave.

There are currently more people in hospital than at the peak of the first wave last spring.

The vaccine roll-out is continuing with just under 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine being administered to GPs today.

Four vaccination hubs have been set up in Dublin, Galway, Sligo and Portlaoise so doctors can get their second jab.

It comes ahead of the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to over-85s from Monday.

Dr Nuala O'Connor from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) says vaccinating everyone in that age group should be completed by the start of next month.

"It is going to take three weeks for us to administer the first dose to all of our over-85s so next week about 84 larger general practices around the country are receiving their supply."

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