Coronavirus: 47 deaths and 631 cases reported in State

Nphet letter to Minister warns epidemiological situation remains ‘very finely balanced’

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glyn said that signs of mobility across the population were low but were drifting upwards and that this was ‘a cause for concern’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glyn said that signs of mobility across the population were low but were drifting upwards and that this was ‘a cause for concern’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A further 47 people have died with Covid-19, while another 631 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported by the Department of Health.

Of the deaths reported on Wednesday, 14 occurred in March, 18 occurred in February and 15 occurred in January. The median age of those who died was 83 years and the age range was 60-95 years.

Of the cases notified on Wednesday, 317 were men and 308 were women. Three-quarters were under 45 years old. The median age was 29 years old.

Most of the cases were in Dublin where there were 247, while elsewhere there were 50 in Kildare, 44 in Meath, 41 in Cork, 32 in Limerick. The remaining 217 cases are spread across 20 other counties.

As of 8am on Wednesday, there were 370 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 92 were in intensive care. There were 31 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

As of Sunday, 525,768 doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered in the Republic. Some 375,521 people have received their first dose while 150,247 people have received their second dose.

‘Finely balanced’

Meanwhile, the State’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has warned the epidemiological situation concerning Covid-19 in Ireland is “improving but remains very finely balanced”.

In the latest letter from the National Public Health Emergency Team to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Dr Glynn said that signs of mobility across the population were low but were drifting upwards and that this was “a cause for concern”.

“While we are seeing continued, slower, yet constant progress against all indicators of disease, incidence remains high. Community test positivity remains high but appears to be reducing,” he said in the letter to the Minister dated March 4th.

Dr Glynn said that health and social care services “continue to experience significant pressure from the current wave of infection” and that the number of Covid-19 cases in hospital and intensive care units was “still high but continues to reduce”.

He spoke about the benefits of the rollout of the vaccine in recent weeks and the sharp fall-off in infection rates in nursing homes and other care facilities.

“The number of cases in long-term residential care settings has decreased rapidly over recent weeks, more so than would be expected given the level of decrease in the wider community,” he said.

“Deaths associated with outbreaks in these setting [sic] also appear to be decreasing, with these trends supporting the emerging evidence of the protective effect of vaccination.”

Earlier, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines was having a big impact on nursing homes with the number of infections way down on the peak.

The latest round of serial testing in nursing homes revealed that just 0.2 per cent or one in 500 residents had tested positive for Covid-19. Almost all residents of nursing homes have received the vaccine.

At the height of the pandemic in January serial testing showed 2 per cent of nursing home residents were infected by Covid-19.

Rates of Covid-19 among healthcare workers have also collapsed. The percentage of healthcare workers among the general population with the disease has fallen from 16 per cent to 4 per cent.

In a tweet on Thursday morning, Mr Reid said the figures indicated “great signs of the impacts of vaccinations” with mortality, infections and transmissions levels all down, along with hospitalisations and ICU.

Healthcare workers

The HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme that the number of healthcare workers being affected had dropped from 1,000 in the middle of January to just 45 at the end of February.

This drop could not be explained by the drop in community transmission alone, he added.

Dr Henry also explained that part of the distribution difficulties being experienced at present were because originally the vaccine rollout had been planned using the more easily transported AstraZeneca vaccine.

It was important to remember that vaccination was just part of the public health response to Covid-19, he said. While the issue of delays in stock were disappointing, the rollout of the vaccination programme to date was having a real impact where there were “collapsing rates” in nursing homes and hospitals.

However, he warned “there’s still a lot of it out there” and precautions were necessary as long as Covid-19 was circulating in society.

When asked about the possibility of antigen testing being used in schools, Dr Henry said such testing was used as part of outbreak response. It was effective when being used to test symptomatic individuals, but its sensitivity was less sensitive in asymptomatic individuals.

“It is a rapid test, but the trade off is lower sensitivity, which could lead towards a false sense of security.”