The Irish Times view on Covid-19 in Donegal: targeted measures

A high incidence rate justifies extra steps – including, if required, a slower reopening

The opening of a second walk-in test centre in Milford today is a positive first step; such centres have proven valuable in detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers but also among those with symptoms who would not, for whatever reason, seek a test through a GP.

The opening of a second walk-in test centre in Milford today is a positive first step; such centres have proven valuable in detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers but also among those with symptoms who would not, for whatever reason, seek a test through a GP.

 

The exceptionally high incidence of Covid-19 in Co Donegal is cause for concern and justifies targeted local measures – including, if required, a slower reopening than the rest of the country.

Incidence of the virus in the county has been above the national average since last September. It now has the State’s highest rate at 293.4 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 127.3 nationally. The incidence in Milford stands at 675 cases per 100,000 people and in Letterkenny it is 600. But the problem appears to be centred on the north of this large county. In the southern part, the rate of infection is about three times lower than the national average.

Consideration should be given to the deployment of extra contact-tracing resources to the county in order to break chains of transmission

The anomalous situation prompted Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to convene talks with Donegal politicians at the weekend. That’s sensible – people of influence in the community must be involved in efforts to ensure better compliance with public health measures. But calling for changes in behaviour is not enough. Just as important are stronger, targeted measures to hunt the disease and stop its spread, in particular through enhanced test-and-trace capacity.

The opening of a second walk-in test centre in Milford today is a positive first step; such centres have proven valuable in detecting the virus in asymptomatic carriers but also among those with symptoms who would not, for whatever reason, seek a test through a GP. Consideration should be given to the deployment of extra contact-tracing resources to the county in order to break chains of transmission. In addition, the local gardaí must be adequately resourced to enforce the public health regulations that remain in place.

Unlike last autumn, when high incidence in Donegal was widely attributed to heavy cross-Border movement, the impressive vaccination coverage in Northern Ireland should have a positive effect on all Border counties. However, if the situation does not improve, the Government will have little choice but to consider a local lockdown or a slower reopening than the rest of the State.

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