Covid-19: Cases increasingly occurring among young people, officials say
Six further deaths reported and 23 new cases as reproduction rate ‘at or above one’
New cases of Covid-19 are increasingly occurring among young people, and giving rise to clusters of the disease, public health officials say.
All new cases of Covid-19 reported on Thursday were in people aged under 44, and 77 per cent were among under 25-year-olds, the National Public Health Emergency Team reported.
This was the first time officials had seen such a concentration of cases among younger people, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said.
And of the 23 new cases reported on Thursday 15 were “directly or indirectly” related to travel, according to Dr Glynn.
Of the 140 cases that occurred last week, the median age was 34 years, compared to a median of 83 years for all cases that have occurred in the pandemic.
Only 29 per cent had underlying conditions, compared to 94 per cent among all cases.
Men accounted for 44 per cent of cases and women for 56 per cent, Dr Glynn said.
He said a “good number” of recent cases were related to travel, and to “groups having met up”.
One new cluster involved nine cases and was “not a pub gathering”, he said.
He said the rise in cases was not unexpected as people moved about more. People could get on with their activities but they had to do so safely, he said. Non-essential overseas travel should be avoided.
Another six deaths of people diagnosed with Covid-19 were reported by the Nphet on Thursday. This brings to 1,743 the total number of deaths from the disease in the Republic.
The 23 new confirmed cases of the virus reported on Thursday brings the total number of cases to 25,565.
The reproduction number, which measures how many people a confirmed case goes on to infect, has increased to “at or above 1”, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.
However, it is difficult to accurately measure the reproduction number when the number of cases involved is small, as at present, he cautioned.
A reproduction number of less than 1 means an epidemic is dying out; a figure greater than 1 signals it is spreading.
Sounding a “note of caution”, he said there was an “immediate need” for people to take care and caution in their decisions and actions. About 15-20 per cent of cases were travel-related.
Case numbers are showing a small increase but other indicators are stable or declining, Prof Nolan said. As a result, Ireland’s 14-day incidence of the disease has risen to four per 100,000 of population.
There are currently an average of 14 new cases per day, one hospital admission a day and one ICU admission every five days.
The rise in cases is not unexpected as people move about more freely, he said.
One out or every five contacts of a confirmed case failed to attend for initial testing on “day 0”, according to Dr Cillian de Gascun, head of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, and almost half failed to go for testing a week later, on “day 7”.
Some 64 per cent of deaths occurred in residential care facilities; and 57 per cent in nursing homes alone.
Over 6,000 tests a day were performed last week, but the positivity rate was just 0.29 per cent.
Meanwhile, six counties have stayed Covid-19 free over the past week despite a slight increase in cases of the disease.
Counties Carlow, Clare, Kerry, Laois, Mayo and Tipperary recorded no new confirmed cases in the week up to last Monday, according to the latest Health Service Executive figures.
Counties Donegal, Kilkenny, Longford, Monaghan, Roscommon and Wexford added just one new case, according to the epidemiological report from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
The biggest increase was in Co Kildare, where 11 further cases were confirmed, followed by Co Dublin with nine. Sligo’s case numbers rose by five due to a travel-related cluster in the county.
Overall, the number of cases recorded by the surveillance centre increased by 60, to 25,531.
Despite concerns expressed over the past week about foreign travel, so far this route of transmission has had little impact on the official figures. The number of travel-related cases grew by six to 599 over the week and the number of imported cases by six to 391.
There are 12 patients with confirmed Covid-19 in hospitals, including nine in intensive care, according to the HSE.
The National Public Health Emergency Team is meeting today to review the data on the transmission of the disease.
Public health officials are also reviewing the impact of the easing of restrictions over recent months, in particular last week’s loosening of measures that enabled national travel again, along with the opening of restaurants and crèches.
WHO Covid-19 chief on Ireland
Separately, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, has said Ireland’s data in relation to the suppression of the virus is promising. But he warned that “a dashboard of indicators” is necessary.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News at One, he explained that the dashboard includes the ability to isolate and track cases, how well hospitals are stocked and performance of nursing homes.
“It’s not just the number of cases, it’s how well prepared you are for a second wave,” he said.
The situation in the world is disturbing, said Dr Nabarro. “I am really worried about the next six months.”
Dr Nabarro said he found it hard to understand the rationale for US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO, especially at such a time.
Dr Nabarro also defended the global health organisation’s line on transmission through airborne or aerosol connections. There is not “a bundle of evidence” so it is correct for the organisation to be extra careful.
“The implications are absolutely huge,” he added. It is important that the WHO advice “is as good as we can make it”.
Meanwhile, the evidence remained that the “vast majority” of transmission was via droplets so keeping the 2m rule is important, he said.