By David Young, PA
Northern Ireland could be recording more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases a day by the end of the summer, Department of Health modelling has suggested.
The 1,000 to 1,200 daily case number at the end of August is the department’s central projection of the virus’ trajectory over the coming months.
That number of cases would translate to between 200 to 300 hospital inpatients with Covid-19 by mid-September.
The department’s modelling is based on three assumptions – the Delta variant becoming dominant in the region; 85% of the adult population having received two doses of vaccine and the public continuing to adhere to social distancing and hygiene guidance.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, the department said there had been 254 probable or confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Northern Ireland.
Chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young outlined three modelling projections at the briefing, central, pessimistic and optimistic.
“Under a central scenario, at the end of August, 85% of adults having been double vaccinated, we’d anticipate that there will be around 1,100 cases a day of the virus,” he said.
“And that would translate, about three weeks later, into around 200-250 inpatient as a result of having acquired Covid in the community.”
The pessimistic projection would see the region recording more than 5,000 cases a day at a peak that would come at an earlier point in the summer.
Those transmission rates that would translate into hospital inpatient numbers higher than at any point in the pandemic.
However, Prof Young said it was “pretty inconceivable” that Northern Ireland would reach that point.
He explained that health experts would know whether the region was tracking on that worst case trajectory weeks in advance of the peak, and would be able to advise the executive to take steps to suppress transmission rates.
“I think it’s pretty inconceivable that we would ever get there because we would provide a clear indication four to six weeks before that happened that we were following the pessimistic scenario and then additional measures could, if necessary, be considered,” said Prof Young.
“I do not expect us to follow that pessimistic curve.”
The optimistic projection would see the region record 50 to 100 cases a day, with very low hospital inpatient numbers.
Those would be similar numbers to what Northern Ireland is currently experiencing.
Another 143 confirmed cases of the virus were recorded on Wednesday, with no further deaths.
There were 16 confirmed Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, none of whom were in intensive care.
Chief medical officer Dr Sir Michael McBride stressed that public actions would determine which trajectory the region followed.
He urged people to take the chance to get vaccinated as soon as they get the opportunity and appealed for people to continue to adhere to social distancing and infection control guidance.
“This really is a race of vaccine against variant now,” he said.
Sir Michael added: “If we work really, really hard we might not necessarily get to the optimistic (projection) but we could get somewhere in between and certainly significantly less than the central.
“And that’s why it is really important to get the message out, it’s the actions now, we’re not powerless, it’s in our hands, we can bend this epidemic in our favour.”