Covid numbers tumble in hospital as overcrowding crisis eases further

Appeal for blood donations as pressure on health service has an impact on numbers attending Irish Blood Transfusion Service clinics

The number of patients in hospital has tumbled in recent days, in a further sign that the overcrowding crisis is easing.

On Sunday there were 237 patients in hospital with Covid-19, the lowest figure since last September and just a third of the numbers recorded in late December.

Some 21 of these patients were in intensive care, the lowest number in a month.

In another sign that the latest wave of Covid has passed, the seven-day positivity rate for PCR test has fallen to 10.2 per cent. This is the lowest rate recorded since October 2021, although the two periods are not directly comparable as the amount of testing being carried out at present is far less than during the height of the pandemic.


Rates of flu and other non-Covid respiratory viruses have been falling, further easing the pressure on hospitals. On Sunday, there were 237 patients waiting for a bed in hospital emergency departments, according to the Health Service Executive’s TrolleyGar count, well down on the 389 trolleys recorded a week earlier. Sunday’s figure is down about 20 per cent on the same day last year but more than twice the figure recorded two years ago.

It includes 12 patients in children’s hospitals, compared with just one on the same day two years ago.

Letterkenny University Hospital had the worst overcrowding, with 31 patients on trolleys; there were no patients waiting for admission in University Hospital Waterford; Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda; Connolly Hospital; Tullamore hospital; and Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan.

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has appealed for donations as supplies in some blood groups have fallen to just three days in recent weeks. Its normal policy is to maintain seven days of stocks.

“Hospitals have been experiencing extreme pressures recently and there has been a sustained high demand for blood,” said Paul McKinney, director of donor services and logistics. “The recent high level of respiratory illness in the community has also impacted the collection of blood and as a result we are running critically low across all blood groups.”

The service is also running additional clinics on Sunday, January 29th, in advance of the new public holiday.

Meanwhile, Covid testing kits are to remain zero-rated for taxation, following a decision by Minister for Finance Michael McGrath.

The kits had been subject to a temporary zero rate on foot of a derogation by the European Commission but this ended on December 31st.

Mr McGrath said zero-rating would be applied on an ongoing basis with immediate effect. This will be put on a legislative bases at the first available opportunity, he said, but in the meantime the Revenue Commissioners have agreed to operate it on an administrative basis.

The continuing application of the zero rate of VAT to test kits is important due to the ongoing circulation of this virus and its significant impacts on the healthcare system, the Minister said.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times