Director of acute hospitals at the HSE, Liam Woods has said the HSE is preparing for a worst-case scenario of over 2,000 in hospital and over 200 in ICU this winter.
Ireland's hospitals are already showing strain, as there are currently 513 COVID patients in hospital with 97 in ICU. ICU numbers have risen 22% in the past week with hospitalisation numbers rising 41% over the last fortnight.
"The numbers of cases in the community will suggest that within hospitals it will go further because we’re aware of this staging dynamic, there is a lag effect between the community incidence of what’s going on in our hospitals," Woods said. "So, it’s an increasing pressure that we need to respond to and are taking measures to try and work as best we can both in the delivery of normal services and I think it’s important to recognise that right now hospitals are running beyond the 2019 levels."
Woods hopes that a deal made with private hospitals in March 2020 will lessen the amount of elective procedures being cancelled due to pressure from COVID patients.
With 350,000 adults still unvaccinated, Woods urged them to avail of the vaccine.
"I think we simply need to keep providing [the vaccination] service," he said. "The target would be to reduce [the number of unvaccinated] that very significantly, but we need people to continue to attend and be vaccinated as it is the best line of defence. We are very alert to the fact that we still have significant admissions to hospital of people who are not vaccinated."
Speaking on his way into cabinet this morning, Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan told reporters that he doesn't see previous restrictions being reintroduced despite the rise in cases.
"We discussed that last night [at a Cabinet Covid sub-committee meeting] but neither Dr Tony Holohan or anyone else in the room felt that that would be the appropriate response," he said. "The virus is out there at scale, and for all our interests it’s best to put simple measures in place, but I don’t think there’ll be a return of restrictions."