Covid-19: Half of all reported Covid cases in pandemic were in past fortnight

Penetration of virus throughout all ages ‘a serious concern’, says Nphet

Professor Philip Nolan has announced that almost half of Ireland's total Covid-19 cases, 44 per cent, have been reported since the turn of the year on January 1st. Video: RTÉ

 

Public health officials are looking at reducing the length of time the contact of a Covid-19 case has to restrict movement, but only when case numbers fall significantly.

Under a change being made now, the testing rules for healthcare workers who are close contacts are to be eased, with the introduction of a second test 10 days after exposure, in addition to a first test after five days. Staff will not have to restrict their movements if the second test is negative, rather than having to wait 14 days.

Assistant chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said a similar change may be applied to contacts in the general population if case numbers were to drop significantly.

A further 28 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team yesterday. This brings to 2,488 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

A total of 26 of these deaths occurred in January, while the dates of two deaths remain under investigation.

Nphet also reported 3,955 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 163,057 the total number of cases in the Republic.Of the new cases, 1,210 are in Dublin, 456 in Cork, 235 in Louth, 221 in Meath and 218 in Limerick, with the remaining 1,615 cases spread across all other counties.

Infects

The reproduction number, a measure of how many other people a case infects, now stands at 1-1.3, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chairman of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group.

He said that from an epidemiological perspective, the current wave was different to what had been seen since spring, “and perhaps worse”.

“The penetration of the virus throughout all ages of the population is a particular cause for serious concern, as is risk of severe disease that all of these people face. Poor health outcomes, risk of serious or long-term illness and hospitalisation remain a risk for us all when it comes to Covid-19. That is why we must follow public health advice and protect not only ourselves but our hospital system and healthcare workers by staying at home.

Of the 208 deaths so far this month, 23 were linked to outbreaks in hospitals and 38 to outbreaks in nursing homes. Those who died ranged in age from 25 to 98. Of the 132 people who died on January 6th-12th, 92 per cent were over 65, and the mean age was 79, officials said.

Challenged

According to Prof Nolan, people have worked hard to reduce contacts and the impact of this was beginning to be felt in the figures. However, the hospital system would continue to be challenged over the coming weeks and there were also concerns about outbreaks in specific settings.

Almost half of all cases reported during the entire pandemic occurred in the past fortnight, he pointed out. One in every 67 people have tested positive in this time.

The incidence of the disease now is 20 times what it was in early December, while the number of deaths each day has risen from four to 23.

The more transmissible variant first identified in the UK in December now accounts for 46 per cent of samples sequenced by Irish labs, officials told a Nphet briefing yesterday.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said it was not unusual for viruses to mutate over time, and two of the three recently identified variants from the UK and South Africa were in Ireland.

“While some of the new variants will increase the risk of becoming infected because they have increased transmissibility – they can stick longer and better to surfaces – this does not mean that our continued adherence to the public health advice is in any way less effective.”