The Department of Health has reported 7,411 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily total since January. The number of patients being treated in hospital was 390 as of 8am on Thursday, it said, with 98 in ICU.
The latest number of cases recorded is the third highest for a single day since the pandemic began.
The record of 8,258 cases was recorded during the second wave on January 8th this year. There were 7,861 recorded two days previous to that.
The high numbers declared are not a surprise given that there were more than 9,192 swabs today from 37,703 tests, a very high positivity rate of almost 25 per cent.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar had predicted last week that the highly transmissible Omicron variant will result in record number of cases.
“It’s not possible to stop it, it’s here already, it’s dominant, and we will see record case numbers in the coming days,” he said.
“There will be very high case numbers and hopefully we won’t be too afraid to see that because this is a much more transmissible strain of the virus and we will see very high case numbers.”
There has also been a record level of testing with 233,813 tests carried out in the last week.
Unlike in previous surges, numbers in hospital and ICUs have not increased substantially despite persistently high positive cases.
Hospital numbers fell sharply overnight from 429 to 390 and the numbers of Covid related cases being treated in ICU fell by one from 99 to 98.
There have already been more than 100,000 cases so far in December with eight days left in the month.
Both medical experts and leading political figures have suggested that the daily number of cases being diagnosed will continue to rise with the expectation being that it will top 10,000 over the coming weeks.
Positive findings in a number of early studies of the effects of the Omicron variant have however prompted some optimism that the numbers of people requiring hospitalisation or treatment in ICU will not rise accordingly.
Nevertheless, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry, said earlier on Thursday that even though early indications were that there was a reduction in hospitalisations from the Omicron variant, it was still unknown what level of hospitalisations would be likely to need intensive care treatment.
Dr Henry said there was some initial cause for optimism based on reports from South Africa that indicated the Omicron variant caused less severe symptoms. But the newer data had to be scrutinised, he said.
Efforts by the public in recent weeks had helped stabilise figures, but the numbers were going up again because of the Omicron variant, he warned. “We’ve learned a hard lesson about not acting early.”
Reports in the UK and Denmark had also provided some encouraging numbers with regard to Omicron but in each instance the authors made it clear that the findings were of a preliminary nature and that more time and analysis are required to establish a fuller picture of the variant’s likely impact.