The HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry has said that health care systems across Europe are concerned at the higher than expected levels of influenza in Australia at present. Traditionally such conditions are replicated the following winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
The hospital system in Ireland was already under pressure because of rising Covid-19 cases with conditions similar to a difficult winter, he told Newstalk Breakfast.
At present 24 of 27 European countries are experiencing a surge in cases, he added.
Dr Henry said that Covid “keeps coming up with surprises” and echoed a warning from the World Health Organisation that Covid-19 was not gone and continued to have an impact.
It was “very worrying” that the Irish hospital system was under pressure from the current wave of the virus.
While there had been high levels of vaccination initially (96 per cent), only 58 per cent of those eligible for the second booster had received it and if enough people in the community contracted the virus and got sick then more would need hospitalisation, he warned.
Of the people in hospital with Covid at present, half were sick with Covid, and half had tested positive for Covid while being treated for another ailment.
Dr Henry pointed out that of the older people in hospital with Covid, half had not been boosted. One third had never been vaccinated. This was disproportionate, he said. “That’s where the virus can do harm”.
The booster “does what it says on the box, it boosts”, he added.
The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) had recommended that the focus should be on older and vulnerable people and those with compromised immune systems. That was also the priority for Niac.
Dr Henry urged the public to continue to wear masks on public transport, as this would help stop spread of the virus.