It is difficult predict when Covid-19 cases will peak during this winter, the Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid said this morning.
One reason for this was the time lag between cases in younger people moving on to those in the over-65 age group, he said.
This lag, between cases in those between 18 to 25 years of age and those among older and more vulnerable people, was not unique to Ireland and was also evident in other countries, he added.
He said while there was evidence of Level 3 and Level 5 measures beginning to have an impact there was a need for caution.
There is rising concern in Europe at the rate of transmission in many countries – with 200,000 cases reported in one week alone in France – and an increase in European cases of 36 per cent.
The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said on Newstalk Radio on Friday: “we’ve always been behind [Europe] in terms of our experience and had the advantage of seeing how it’s beginning to impact on their healthcare services.
“And we see that happening now in Belgium and the Czech Republic, where their intensive care and acute hospital services are under strain”.
Mr Reid said while there had been an easing in the positivity rates in Ireland recently, the number of people in hospital and intensive care units was continuing to rise.
“This morning there are 327 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, of which 43 are in intensive care units.
“So the message this morning is – there are green shoots of hope, but we’re only ever two or three weeks away from our health systems from being overrun,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Reid also said there was no agreement in place to provide ICU beds for patients from Northern Ireland but the HSE would do so if requested.
“There have been various levels of engagement with Northern Ireland health service, but no formal request for help yet. Should a request be made, we would be willing to help.”
With regards to nursing homes, Mr Reid said four nursing homes were dealing with a serious Covid-19 outbreak and 25 others were receiving a range of supports.
Yesterday the National Public Health Emergency Team reported six more deaths related to Covid-19 and the number of cases surpassed 60,000 as 866 new infections were confirmed.
The median age of the latest confirmed cases is 35 years old, with cases almost split evenly between men (428) and women (438).
Some 242 cases were confirmed in Dublin, 166 in Cork, 56 in Donegal, 54 in Galway, 44 in Meath and the remaining 304 cases are spread across another 20 counties.