Ireland is still weeks away from the peak of the Delta wave, according to NPHET member Dr Mary Favier.
Just short of 1,000 new cases were reported yesterday, the highest figure since February 20th.
Meanwhile, there are now 80 coronavirus patients in Irish hospitals – up by almost one-third in a week.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Mary Favier, NPHET member and COVID-19 adviser for the Irish College of GPs said there are real concerns about people who remain unvaccinated.
“We are up to nearly 1,000 cases yesterday and likely to be above that today and into next week,” she said.
“The surge has started. We are two to three or four weeks away from the peak of it probably and the real issue is, will vaccination hold and will we have enough vaccines done – so that is the challenge.
“What is different about this wave is we have vaccination; it is really effective but the concern is we don’t have our younger people vaccinated yet and there are some people, for whatever reason who have not put themselves forward for vaccination and they are of real concern as this surge rises.”
She said fully vaccinated people make up around one-in-20 of the new cases.
“We always knew that while vaccination is excellent and gives really good protection, it is not perfect,” she said.
“Now, what it is showing is that there is much less serious illness, there is much less hospitalisation and death among the vaccinated group who become positive but again, that is not complete either.
“So, we do need to maintain vigilance on all the other things which are the standard precautions like masks and hand hygiene – and if you are not fully vaccinated do not go to places which put you at risk. Do not do things that are inside; do not take your mask off.
“We have got two, three or four weeks to really try and stay ahead of this.”
She said the HSE is already busy trying to catch up with non-COVID care that was postponed during lockdown and said any surge in the country’s hospitals could be very damaging.
“We have got this opportunity to really make a difference and it is our behaviours as well as vaccination that will make the difference,” she said.
The Government has come under increasing criticism over its COVID-19 messaging in recent weeks – especially when it comes to indoor dining, which is due to reopen in the coming weeks for the fully vaccinated, those who have recovered from COVID and children.
Dr Favier said she believes the public health advice is clear.
“Do not put yourself in any situation where you increase risk and that includes anything indoors,” she said.
“If people are not vaccinated and there is anything going on inside that puts you at increased risk, really think twice about it.
“The concern now is that – and it is entirely understandable – everybody is tired; everybody is effectively sick of it; however, we have just got a final push before we can get full vaccination and until that is done absolute vigilance is needed.
“People don’t know if they are going to be one of the 5% who is vaccinated who continues to get it and the real concern is that, if we have a really big surge, it will eventually come into people’s homes and catch the people who are not vaccinated for whatever reason – or can’t be.
“About 10% or 15% of people aged 50 to 60 are still not vaccinated for whatever reason and they need to be really vigilant.”
She said people need to be extra cautious in the coming week and double down on the standard public health measures like masks and handwashing.
“It is the summer; Irish people love the summer but we have just got to say this one has to be a cautious one and try and do as much as you can outside,” she said.