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Concerns rise again: spike in number of people infected with COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital

DUBLIN: HSE has expressed concern about the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in people who have been hospitalised for other illnesses.

The HSE stated that there are more controls over patients admitted for non-emergency procedures and outpatient appointments, and therefore the main concern is about the patients in emergency care.

The HSE lead overseeing infection control, Prof. Martin Cormican, said that around one in 1,000 patients had so far been infected in the hospital. While this shows that the risk is low, it should be brought down, he said.

Prof. Cormican said that the number increased in the week up to 8 November, when 100 of these hospital-acquired infections were diagnosed, substantially higher than in the previous week.

The hospital staff are under immense pressure and will have to wash their hands 10 times in an hour or more. Their work requires intense personal contact with the patient. One lapse in their 12-hour shift would be enough to spread the virus – said Prof. Martin Cormican. He also acknowledged the extraordinarily difficult work of health staff. “We have to deliver the care and manage the risk,” he added.

He reminds that the virus can be transmitted by patients, staff or visitors. He therefore warned people with respiratory symptoms not to come near a hospital for any reason unless they need to be treated.  

Prof. Cormican said that new infections always tend to spread in healthcare settings. He also said that there is a natural tendency to meet health colleagues after a stressful shift, but this poses a risk.

Unlike the onset of pandemic, if a hospital-acquired infection is found, the hospital will now look for other asymptomatic cases. “Hospital is still the safest place to be,” he added.

Hospitals in Limerick, Ennis, Naas and Letterkenny had to temporarily lay off 450 staff following the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of them are not infected but are close contacts of COVID positive patients.

The HSE confirms that there are currently 290 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, including 33 in intensive care. It also mentioned that there is also a rise in the number of people attending hospital for non-COVID treatment.

The R number has increased to 0.7 to 0.9. Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Colm Henry said the R number shows how many people a person who is infected can pass on the virus.

Dr. Colm Henry said that the number of cases per day has declined relative to the early days, but he also noted that there is evidence that the number of close contacts of people contracting the virus has increased.

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