'Highest pressure ever seen' on Ireland's health service expected over Christmas
Fresh calls for masks to be made mandatory on public transport have been issued.
Health Service Executive [HSE] officials have sounded a stark warning ahead of the imminent Christmas period, indicating that the health system in Ireland may be at breaking point.
A designated crisis team has been established to tackle the current surge of winter-related viral infections; from the common flu to a visible re-emergence of Covid-19 amongst the general populace.
As of Thursday (22 December), 656 people were in hospital in relation to Covid-19, with 26 of those in ICU.
At least 1,200 have been reported as being hospitalised due to respiratory problems.
The National Management Crisis Team (NCMT) has already met on two occasions this week and will continue to do so in the coming days.
Officials have warned of the "highest pressure ever seen" on the Irish health system; an especially ominous warning given the last three years and the impact that Covid has already had on the country.
"It is now looking increasingly likely that we will see the demand for health services rising well above anything we have seen before," said Stephen Mulvanny, CEO of the HSE.
"It is therefore critical that we continue to prepare to the maximum level possible for the projected further surge in demand for services in late December and early January - over and above the current high level of demand.
"We are working to ensure that every available resource is mobilised and utilised to respond to the needs of our patients who are seeking urgent and emergency care."
Mulvanny also encouraged everyone in Ireland who is eligible to receive vaccinations to do so as soon as they can.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to meet with health officials including Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Friday afternoon.
The current state of play has resulted in fresh calls for masks to once again be made mandatory on public transport, with the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) urging the Government to take swift action.
Speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 on Friday, NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said that there are significant concerns among public transport workers.
"There is potential here for Government to reset over the Christmas period, where there will be an obvious lull in the numbers travelling, and that is the time we believe for Government to reintroduce mandatory mask-wearing for a limited time," said O'Leary.