Covid-19: Lowest number of daily cases since mid-December – Glynn
‘People’s efforts continue to make a real difference,’ says acting Chief Medical Officer
A vaccination centre at St Mary’s Hospital in the Phoenix Park, in Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Two further deaths and 303 new cases of Covid-19, the lowest number of daily cases since mid-December, have been confirmed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Sunday.
One of the deaths occurred in March while the other happened in April. It brings the total number of deaths from Covid-19 in the State to 4,785 and the number of confirmed cases of the virus to 240,945.
Of the cases confirmed on Sunday, 75 per cent are aged under 45 years while the median age is 32 years old.
There were 213 Covid-19 patients in hospital as of 8am on Sunday, of which 53 were in intensive care (ICU). An additional seven people were admitted to hospital with the virus in the past 24 hours.
Meanwhile, as of last Thursday, 1,045,919 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Ireland. Of those, 735,997 people have received their first dose and 309,922 people have received their second dose.
Dr Ronan Glynn, acting Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said the number of confirmed cases on Sunday is the lowest number of daily cases reported since mid-December.
“People’s efforts continue to make a real difference; by keeping our social contacts low we are making it much harder for Covid-19 to spread,” he said.
“This morning we had the lowest number of people newly hospitalised with Covid-19 since the end of November. Last week the millionth vaccine was given and this week should see a step-change in the number of doses administered. All of our children are going back to school tomorrow. From tomorrow we can travel within our county.
“If we can maintain this progress, vaccines and the basic public health measures with which we are all so familiar are our way out of this pandemic.”
Dr Glynn said people should continue to work from home where possible and to avoid mixing indoors with people from other households.
“Even if meeting outdoors please watch your distance and only meet up with people from one other household at a time,” he added.
“If you have any symptoms of Covid-19 isolate and contact your GP to arrange a free test
“Remember you are not properly protected until 2 weeks after your second Covid-19 vaccination.”
Overseas flights and variants
Earlier on Sunday, the Department of Health said three Covid-19 outbreaks in the past fortnight have been linked to overseas flights, while the HSE separately said 19 cases of the Brazilian P1 variant have been confirmed in the State.
Two of these outbreaks involved possible variant of concern cases and remain under investigation, it said.
Explaining why quarantine rules must apply to people transiting through designated “high-risk” states requiring mandatory quarantine, a spokeswoman said several cases of in-flight transmission of the virus have been reported during the pandemic.
In Ireland, one such flight resulted in onward transmission with 59 cases across six of the eight HSE regions.
“When travelling through a high-risk country, there is need to ensure no onward transmission from potentially infected individuals,” the spokeswoman said.
Explaining why people “who claim to have been vaccinated” still need to quarantine when coming from high-risk states, she pointed out there was no international system that recognises vaccination certification.
“There needs to be an agreed method for people to show as proof of vaccination/immunity. The EU is looking at the issue of a ‘Digital Green Certificate’ at the moment. Ireland is actively engaging in the process.”
In addition, the epidemiological situation across Europe and worldwide is “much poorer” than in Ireland at present, she said.
There is also some evidence that vaccinated people have subsequently being diagnosed with a problematic Covid-19 variant.
It is too early to know if, or to what extent, vaccinated people may transmit the virus, she added.
Separately, the HSE’s clinical lead on infection control said that 19 cases of the P1 variant, which was first identified in Brazil, have been confirmed in Ireland.
Professor Martin Cormican said the spread of the P1 variant within Ireland has so far been “very limited” and public health officials are working “really hard following up on all cases”.
“It’s really important to say that variants can come from outside [Ireland], there’s also a possibility of variants starting here. No country is immune from variants. That’s again one of the reasons why we want to try and keep the number of people who are getting infected as low as possible,” Prof Cormican told RTÉ’s News at One on Sunday.
“Every time the virus copies itself it can make mistakes, if you’ve got thousands of people infected, you’ve got lots more copying of the virus. If you’ve got a small number of people infected, you’ve got less copying of the virus.”
Prof Cormican said about 25 per cent of confirmed Covid-19 cases are now being sequenced and that capacity has built up “very well” over the last number of weeks.
He said the HSE has a “pretty good picture” of what’s happening in terms of variation.
“There is a lot of variation, some of the variation doesn’t matter for clinical or public health purposes but it can still be useful in tracking the virus and then there are some variants like P1 that does have a public health significance,” he said.
“The main concern obviously is that a variant will emerge that the vaccines don’t work so well for and that is the big concern.”
Prof Cormican said there are some concerns about how the vaccines will work for “some of the variants” but the expectation is they will work “against most of the variants to some degree, though it may work better for some than others”.
He also said the situation in Ireland had improved over the last three to four weeks with a lot more people vaccinated, though cases still remain high.