Medics brace for third wave in NI fuelled by Delta variant: Hundreds could be hospitalised in late summer even with 85% fully vaccinated

The arrival of the Delta variant in Northern Ireland means medics and scientists are preparing for a surge of coronavirus cases that could lead to hundreds hospitalised by the end of summer - even with around 85% of adults fully vaccinated.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 5:29 pm

The Delta variant spreads faster than previous mutations, is thought to be more likely to lead to hospitalisation, and appears to be more resistant to a single dose of vaccine.

Northern Ireland’s chief scientific advisor, Professor Ian Young, outlined to the media on Wednesday three potential models of what might happen here if — as expected — the Delta variant becomes dominant.

Appearing at Wednesday’s briefing alongside chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride, Professor Young said he does not expect the most pessimistic scenario, which would see between 5,000 and 6,000 recorded each day in August leading to more people being hospitalised than during any of the previous waves of infection so far, to happen in Northern Ireland.

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Handout photo issued by Press Eye of Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young.
Handout photo issued by Press Eye of Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young.

He said it would become clear “four to six weeks” in advance through monitoring of public health data whether this more pessimistic scenario was likely to happen, allowing action to be taken.

The most optimistic scenario, meanwhile, would see “around 50-100 cases per day” with “very few inpatients”.

The third model outlines what Professor Young described as the “middle scenario” — a course Northern Ireland appears to be following at present.

This model, he explained, assumes “85% of adults, by the end of August, having been double-vaccinated”.

“We would anticipate that there would be around 1,100 cases of the virus per day and that would translate, around three weeks later, into around 200 inpatients or 250, as a result of having acquired Covid in the community,” he said.

He added: “That’s the sort of central scenario that we’ve looked at”.

But both Professor Young and Dr McBride stressed that the situation could be improved and brought closer to the more optimistic model through adherence to the key public health messages, and increased vaccine uptake.