Coronavirus: 14 new deaths and 359 further cases reported, the lowest daily figure since mid-December

‘Please hold firm to the public health advice,’ Ronan Glynn says

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

A further 14 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Tuesday. This brings to 4,333 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Three of the deaths occurred in March, 10 in February and one in November.

Nphet also reported 359 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 220,630 the total number of cases in the Republic. This is the lowest number of daily cases since mid-December.

Of the new cases, 159 in Dublin, 25 in Westmeath, 21 in Louth, 21 in Galwa and 19 in Meath, with the remaining 114 cases spread across 19 other counties.

The median age of cases is 34 years and 66 per cent are under 45.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 201 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Offaly has the highest county incidence, followed by Longford. Kerry has the lowest incidence.

On Tuesday morning, 498 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, down 42 on the previous day. This included 116 in ICU, down four. There were 28 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

  Up to last Saturday, 435,895 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered in Ireland: 294,550 people received their first dose, and 141,345 people their second. This is an increase of 9,825 vaccine doses given, on the figures released on Monday.

 “While the low number of cases reported today may be attributable to a weekend effect, it is nevertheless very welcome and represents the lowest number of cases reported on a single day since mid-December,” said deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

“While we continue to make good progress in Ireland, globally in the past week, the number of cases has increased for the first time in seven weeks.”

“We must not allow this virus the opportunity to do the same here. Please hold firm to the public health advice and together we can continue to protect and build on the progress we have made over the last two months.”

Target

However the State is not on track to meet its target of administering 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses last week following delays in deliveries.

Just over 80,000 vaccine doses had been administered in the six days leading up to Saturday evening with figures from Sunday not expected to reach the 100,000 target set by Government last week.

The delays follow a change in AstraZeneca’s vaccine delivery schedule for last week and this week, something the State’s vaccination taskforce was informed of at “very late notice”, chair of the group Prof Brian MacCraith said at the weekend.

Prof MacCraith has said the delay is “not a reduction in deliveries” and that the State can “recover completely what had been lost” from next weekend.

The Government previously said the vaccination rollout would accelerate this month with about 100,000 doses being administered per week in March, rising to between 200,000 and 300,000 per week in April.

However, the target of vaccinating all over-85s by the end of this week is unlikely to be achieved, with at least 30 smaller GP practices yet to receive a vaccine delivery or a date this week for delivery to inoculate their oldest patients.

Infectious diseases expert Prof Sam McConkey said on Tuesday that further data would be needed on Covid-19 transmission to ensure the introduction of a “vaccination passport” could work.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast about a European Commission proposal for a Europe-wide digital certificate providing proof of a Covid-19 vaccination, Prof McConkey said such a system would not be difficult to implement quickly, as there was already a model for yellow fever, but questioned whether the proposal would actually work.

Some people could still be susceptible to the virus, children could help spread Covid-19 and transmissibility would still be an issue, he said, adding that the duration of a vaccination’s efficacy could also become an issue. It is not yet known how long vaccines will provide immunity – it could be six months or a year, said Prof McConkey.

However, the State should put a plan for vaccination certificates in place if data indicates such a system will work, he added.

Under the commission’s proposal, people would be able to travel within the EU using a “digital green pass” to demonstrate they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid-19. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday the commission would put forward a proposal for the green pass which also accommodate Europeans who have not yet been able to receive the vaccine.

The issue has divided member states, with strong tourism economies such as Greece advocating “vaccine passports” but other countries cautioning the measure would be discriminatory.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said the State should “embrace” and “encourage” a vaccine certificate system as a means of proving that people had participated in a vaccination programme.

Mr Kelleher acknowledged that the vaccine passport system would discriminate against those who had not been vaccinated, but “we have to live in the real world,” he said. There are people who have to travel for work, such as migrant fruit workers, and having a vaccination certificate would allow them to do so, he said, adding that such a system would also benefit the tourism sector.