HSE chief Paul Reid has told Newstalk Breakfast that he is “cautiously hopeful” Ireland has passed the peak of the Omicron wave.
Yesterday morning, there were 1,011 patients with the virus in hospital – the third day in a row the number had decreased.
There were 92 in intensive for the third day in a row. The ICU figure has not gone above 94 in over three weeks.
Meanwhile, the number of people referred for testing has been decreasing in recent days and the positivity rate for PCR tests carried out yesterday fell below 50% for the first time since New Year’s Eve.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, HSE Chief Paul Reid said he was “cautiously hopeful” the country had passed the peak of the Omicron wave.
“There are a few positive indications from a health service perspective,” he said. “Certainly, we have seen the growth of hospitalisations steadying or certainly not increasing at the level they were and our ICU is holding
“We will possibly get a better indication over the next few days or week of what is really happening at a testing level, but we are seeing over the last 48 to 72 hours certainly, GP referrals for testing coming down and that is giving us increased capacity for PCR.”
He warned that the health service would take time to recover, even if cases start to decline.
“From a hospital perspective or a HSE perspective we would obviously lag whatever happens at case level,” he said.
“Hospitalisations generally tend to happen after seven days so there would be a longer lag before we would sew the full benefit at a hospital level and certainly when we do plateau, we know the tail and the way out of this is a lot longer for our hospitals to cope.
“But I would be cautiously hopeful – we are certainly seeing some good indications.”
He said we are “a long way from being out of the woods” with PCR positivity levels still very high but added “we all want to take positive indications form what we are seeing right now”.
He said last week, 305,000 PCR tests were administered and 350,000 antigen tests sent out.
“We are managing through this extremely difficult period,” he said. “We are constrained on the levels of services we would like to be providing.
“Other non-COVID services are still very much constrained, so everything is relative. When we are managing COVID cases, there is an impact on all other services.
“The biggest impact we are having right now is the impact of staff absences. We hope to see that coming down significantly over the next few days and into next week but that has been one major constraining factor us, Having so much staff absent over such a short period of time.”
Mr Reid said the new portal for uploading positive antigen tests will ensure the system is "very much aligned" between antigen and PCR tests.
The system can not be used to qualify for a recovery cert and Mr Reid said he does not expect anyone to abuse the self-declaration aspect of the system.