Focus on daily Covid-19 cases causing ‘fear, anxiety and despair’, says Varadkar

Ireland on course for record Covid-19 numbers, says Tánaiste

Covid-19 case numbers in the State could reach record levels in the coming weeks, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has predicted.

The record one day number of 936 cases of Covid-19 was recorded in the Republic on April 23rd.

Mr Varadkar stated that the Republic could go the way of other countries in Europe which have experienced record numbers of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Hospital Report

The UK recorded a one-day high of 7,143 infections on Tuesday while Northern Ireland recording a record high on Wednesday of 424 cases.


The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovakia and Romania all saw record numbers of daily infections this week while France had a record daily figure last week.

Doctors have cautioned, however, that numbers of Covid-19 infections were most likely much higher in the spring than were recorded because then only people with symptoms were tested for the disease.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme, Mr Varadkar said numbers are rising “exponentially” in the country and are on course for record case numbers. However, he criticised the media for what he saw was the “over-concentration on the daily case numbers”.

Mr Varadkar said the daily cases were one of eight metrics used by the Government to ascertain how the pandemic is progressing. The others included deaths, hospitalisations, numbers in intensive care units (ICUs), the R (Reproduction) rate and the rate of infection.

He said the daily case number was not even the most important metric and the daily announcement was causing unnecessary “fear and anxiety” to the public.

“Watching the news today and most days, you would think that it (case numbers) was the only one, or the main one. It is not,” he said.

“The over-concentration particularly on the daily case number can create the wrong impression. It can cause people to despair sometimes.”

However, he said the picture when you look at other indicators is much better with deaths and hospitalisations “nowhere near where they were back in April”.

He stressed, though, that rates of infection (the percentage of those who test positive) and rates of hospitalisations have increased tenfold since the start of July.

“That’s why we are having to issue new restrictions,” he explained. “It’s a different picture that what you get from the case loads alone.”

When asked who was putting too much emphasis on the case numbers, he said the media put the emphasis first on the case numbers and not the other indicators.

He stressed that restrictions are no longer being decided by case numbers alone anymore, but by positivity rates and hospitalisations.

“We need to always bear in mind that case numbers are only one of a number of metrics. They are not the first and they are not the most important. Case numbers only give us part of the picture.”

The Department of Health releases data on coronavirus every evening at approximately 5.30pm. The statement from the National Public Health Emergency Team includes the number of new cases, the number of new deaths, the total number of cases and the total number of deaths. It also provides a breakdown on the daily cases including gender, age profile, if they were associated with outbreaks or close contacts, whether they were as a result of community spread as well as a breakdown by county where the new cases were detected.

The latest 14-day incidence rates of Covid-19 in Lifford-Stranorlar Co Donegal is 602.5 per 100,000, more than seven times the national average of 88.2.

The second highest area in the country is Celbridge, Co Kildare at 305.3 per 100,000 followed by Kimmage-Rathmines at 282.8.

Ballymun-Finglas has the fourth highest with 270.9 cases per 100,000, followed by Monaghan town (202.7), Dublin Clondalkin (199.9), Letterkenny (198), Boyle, Co Roscommon (197), Bray West in Wicklow (190.2) and Dublin’s South West Inner City (188.9). They make up the 10 worst affected areas.

Nine of the next 10 local electoral areas are in Dublin with the exception of Leixlip in Co Kildare which is on the Dublin-Kildare border and it has a rate of 163.9 per 100,000.

The worst affected part of Co Cork is the Cork city south west area which has a rate of 146.7 per 100,000 and is ranked 24th.

Modest increase

In an interview with The Currency on Wednesday, the Fine Gael leader said that there are increasing coronavirus cases across Europe and Ireland but there is "only a modest increase in the number of people who are in hospital, and also thankfully, the amount of people who are passing away."

“Any death is regrettable, and our sympathies go to the families affected, but this second wave which is happening across Europe and Ireland is very different. As we speak now, only 1 per cent of our hospital beds have Covid patients in them and maybe 10 or 15 per cent of ICU. If it got three or four times worse, it would still be only using up a relatively small amount of our health service capacity.”

Mr Varadkar said that other countries such as Belgium are no longer using case numbers to make their decisions on restrictions and on policy.

“They are looking at hospitalisations, ICU capacity and on deaths. It is a job for us as politicians to say to the public health people that maybe we should be focusing on that. The objective was to make sure our health service did not get overwhelmed, not to lock down the country and the economy until there was no Covid at all. That is not realistic.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times