Covid-19 outbreaks in households claimed 68 lives, new data shows

One in every 10 cases of coronavirus was contracted in clusters in private dwellings

Chief executive Paul Reid says the HSE is concerned at the number of people not turning up for coronavirus testing after being in contact with someone who has the disease.

 

There were 68 confirmed Covid-19 deaths of individuals who contracted coronavirus in outbreaks in private dwellings, according to new figures from the Department of Health.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the division of the Health Service Executive that tracks Covid-19 infections and deaths, provided more detailed data to The Irish Times showing that 2,937 cases – or about one in every 10 of known infections in the State – were in outbreaks in private dwellings.

The highest number of people infected in a single household outbreak was eight; the average number was two. A cluster is defined by public health officials as two or more cases.

On Wednesday, the State’s National Public Health Emergency Team reported one additional Covid-19 death, bringing the death toll from the virus to 1,754. There were a further 17 cases of the disease confirmed, bringing total known cases to 25,819.

The new data on clusters reveals for the first time more detail on the extent of private house outbreaks, which account for the highest concentration of clusters. There were 1,414 outbreaks recorded in private houses as of last Saturday, of which 1,404 were outbreaks in family homes.

Dublin had the largest number with 861, or 61 per cent, followed by Cork with 86 (6 per cent), Kildare with 65 (5 per cent) and Wicklow with 52 (4 per cent).

HSE chief executive Paul Reid told The Irish Times the high numbers showed the importance of not just staying at home but isolating within a home if someone in a household tests positive.

Follow-up calls

Elsewhere, it has emerged that just 4,121 calls were made to check up on more than 60,000 people arriving in Dublin Airport in the first two weeks of July to see if they were self-isolating.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, who received the figures from a Dáil question, said less than 7 per cent of passengers received a follow-up call to check information they had submitted on the compulsory passenger locator forms and half of those calls went unanswered.

“How can the public have confidence in the Government’s decision on travel when that is the case?” she said on the publication of a “green list” of 15 countries with similar infection rates.

The Department of Justice said since traffic volumes rose at the start of the month the border management unit charged with making calls had “to concentrate on their core immigration duties” with the department awaiting handover of the process to the Department of Health.

Increase in cases

Speaking at a briefing on Wednesday, Mr Reid reported significant, worrying trends on the spread of the virus and the public response, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 267 in the fortnight to July 18th, compared with 155 in the previous two-week period.

He expressed concern at the increase in the number of close contacts of newly infected individuals from two to more than five and at the significant number of no-shows for testing among close contacts: 25 per cent for their first test and 50 per cent for the day-seven follow-up test.

The HSE said officials were spending double the time conversing with contacts of confirmed cases with no symptoms trying to persuade them to be tested.

“People are not the best judge on whether they need to take a test,” Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, told the briefing.

The HSE warned that one in 10 close contacts are likely to test positive and that they could test negative on day one but positive on day seven and infect others in the intervening period.

Dr Henry said that an untested asymptomatic case risked spreading infection to other people and creating “a cluster, which becomes an outbreak and eventually, if enough ripples come together, becomes uncontrolled community transmission”.

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