Coronavirus: 226 new cases and 6 further deaths reported in the State

Concern over high number of care staff failing to show for Covid-19 tests

Only seven out of every 10 staff in long-term care facilities are turning up for Covid-19 tests, public health officials have warned. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Only seven out of every 10 staff in long-term care facilities are turning up for Covid-19 tests, public health officials have warned. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

The deaths of six more people with Covid-19 has been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) this evening. This brings to 2,028 the total number of virus deaths in the pandemic.

Nphet also reported a further 226 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing the total number of cases to 70,930.

Of the new cases, 64 were in Dublin, 41 in Donegal, 23 in Tipperary, 13 in Limerick, 12 in Louth, 12 in Wicklow, with the remaining 61 in 16 other counties. The median age is 42 years and 56 per cent are under 45 years of age.

On Tuesday afternoon, there were 292 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 36 in ICU. There have been 18 additional hospitalisations in the last 24 hours.

The 14-day incidence of the disease nationally has fallen to 107.8 cases per 100,000 people. Donegal has the highest county incidence, at 240, up on yesterday, followed by Limerick at 211.8, also up. Wexford has the lowest incidence, at 36.7.

New analysis from the Central Statistics Office shows that Covid-19 is the fourth biggest underlying cause of death this year.

Cancer is the biggest killer for both men and women, accounting for 7,269 out of the total of 22,416 deaths registered so far in 2020, the CSO found. Circulatory system diseases were the next biggest underlying cause of death, at 5,886. Mental and behavioural disorders, which includes dementia, were linked to 2,390 deaths, followed by Covid-19, with 1,462.

Covid-19 was the fifth highest cause of death among those aged 65 and over, sixth highest for the 50-64 year age-group and eighth highest in the 25-49 category.

It did not feature in the top 10 causes of death for under-25s, which was headed up by congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities, with 48 deaths.

The CSO count of Covid-19 deaths differs from others in that includes laboratory confirmed cases and cases where a clinical or epidemiological diagnosis exists but lab testing was inconclusive or not available.

Meanwhile public health officials warned that only seven out of every 10 staff in long-term care facilities are turning up for Covid-19 tests and some are attending work while showing symptoms of the disease.

The low uptake of testing in care facilities for vulnerable older people has caused concern among the officials, who have called for renewed efforts to improve uptake. Of the 88 Covid-19 deaths so far this month, 35 are associated with nursing homes.

Officials also highlighted an “emerging area of concern” last month over smaller, family-run nursing homes, some of which lack resources and staffing to effectively cope with outbreaks.

Nphet said particular attention should be directed to these home to ensure they are implementing training improvements and are operating in line with the wider industry, according to minutes of its October 29th meeting.

When serial testing was carried out in long-term care facilities between mid-September and mid-October, just 71 per cent of staff who were referred actually participated. A total of 261 people tested positive out of 61,423 tests carried out.

Noting the “urgent need” to increase the uptake of serial testing in all centres for older people, Nphet said the aim should be to have 100 per cent of staff tested in each fortnightly cycle.

“To support this, the HSE are working with Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) undertaking a target approach for improvement in facilities where low uptake is currently visible,” Nphet minutes for October 22nd state. “If required, additional support will be provided to these facilities to improve the uptake rate.”

Symptomatic

Department of Health officials told the meeting there continued to be “a small number of staff identified as attending work while symptomatic”.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 outbreaks among students often occur in rented accommodation rather than in college, according to an analysis presented to Nphet.

In September and October, student cases accounted for 654 of the 5,596 cases among people aged 19 to 24, prompting a review of third level institutions by HSE public health departments.

It found the vast majority of third level outbreaks do not appear to involve transmission in the educational setting, but that cases may relate to “socialising” between student households, often in rented accommodation.

Some students reported difficulty in accessing testing sites, the HSE reported, and in total there were 31 outbreaks linked to third level colleges, involving 329 cases.

Public health department staff are “stretched and fatigued” as staffing levels have not returned to the levels seen during the first wave of Covid-19, HSE officials told last month’s meeting.

This increase in cases placed “significant strain” on the eight regional departments of public health, with referrals for contact tracing increasing in number and complexity “on a daily basis”.

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