Covid-19: UK variant accounts for three in four cases in the State

Nphet reports 75 more deaths as State passes 200,000 confirmed cases

The more transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK now accounts for three out of every four cases here and is firmly dominant, according to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Despite this, case numbers continue in a stable decline and could be as low as 200 a day by the end of this month.

A further 75 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by Nphet on Thursday. This brings to 3,586 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Hospital Report

Of these deaths, 46 occurred in February, 27 in January and two were from last year.


Those who died ranged in age from 34 to 100 years and the median age was 84.

Nphet also reported 1,318 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 200,744 the total number of cases in the Republic since the pandemic began.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 397 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Monaghan has the highest county incidence, followed by Waterford. Roscommon has the lowest county incidence.

The reproduction number, a measure of how many other people a case infects, currently stands at 0.5-0.8, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group.

‘Stable level of decline’

Prof Nolan said most indicators of the disease continued to improve over the past week.

The average number of cases each day is less than one-fifth of what it was at the peak of the current surge. Admissions to hospital and ICU have halved. The epidemic is halving every eight to 12 days.

While cases among people of working age are about one-fifth of peak levels, the incidence among over 85s is dropped only by half.

Prof Nolan sought to allay concerns he previously expressed about a possible plateauing of case, saying there was a “stable level of decline” of 6-9 per cent.

Officials were “slightly misled” by a rise in cases through the course of each week which, when analysed, were found to be due to a “weekend effect” of lower testing on Saturday and Sunday.

He forecast an uptick in case numbers in the coming days due to the resumption of the testing of close contacts, which could add 100-150 cases a day. However, cases should resume falling thereafter.

On Thursday afternoon, there were 1,284 Covid-19 patients in hospital, including 188 in ICU. There were 74 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

There have been 111 deaths of Covid-19 patients so far in February, and 1,180 in January.

The B117 variant first identified in the UK now accounts for 75 per cent of samples tested, he said, and was firmly established as the dominant variant.

Prof Nolan said trends were “still on track” for 200-400 cases by the end of the month but only if people continued to adhere to guidelines and stayed at home.

Getting down to 200 cases daily would be “an extraordinary performance” but the strategy beyond this month should be to keep the numbers going down further.

Areas where significant numbers of outbreaks are occurring include workplaces, travellers and direct provision, officials said.

Up to half of people with symptoms are taking three days or longer to come forward for swabbing, according to assistant chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

Ireland now has the fastest improving virus figures in Europe, albeit from the high levels of infection recorded at the start of the year, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan noted.

Vaccines administered

Earlier on Thursday, the HSE said that there have been 219,200 Covid-19 vaccines administered to date.

Of those 133,000 were administered to frontline healthcare workers and 86,000 to residents of the long-term care facilities.

Some 55,000 healthcare workers have received their second vaccine along with 12,000 residents of nursing homes and other such facilities.

However, there are only plans to administer 30,000 vaccines next week as the vaccine rollout need to be recalibrated and a buffer of vaccines kept.

The rollout to the over-70s will begin the following week.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said they will now have to implement their contingency plan following the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used for public over the age of 70.

He said they will have to look at sites where there is sufficient refrigeration for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and place for multiple GPs to work in.

There are now 1,308 patients in hospital with Covid-19 down from a peak of almost 2,100 in January. There are also 184 patients in ICU with Covid-19.

The average number of close contacts for people who have tested positive for Covid-19 is 2.9 per person which is “thankfully low” he said.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times