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Tullamore remains worst location in Ireland for virus spread as infection rates surge

Covid-19 infection rates in Tullamore, Co Offaly, have surged again with the town remaining the worst location in Ireland for virus spread, according to new data.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) statistics measuring 14-day-incidence rates of infection, published on Thursday, shows the midlands town had 754.5 cases per 100,000 people as of last Monday.

That is more than five times the national average of 158 detected across the country’s local electoral areas.

(If you are reading this in the Irish Times app, click here to see the table)

Tullamore topped the poll last week as well but at that stage its infection rate was 484 per 100,000. The 56 per cent increase in just one week illustrates the challenges being faced in the region.

Tullamore was one of five locations in the country where walk-in testing centres were opened in a bid by health authorities to try to locate and understand asymptomatic spread patterns.

The spiralling rates in the town are also contextualised by the second highest region for 14-day-incidences – Buncrana, Co Donegal – which stood at 518.6.

After those two, only Roscrea and Templemore in Co Tipperary breached the 400 mark with a rate of 409.8.

Other locations

That means that of the total 166 electoral areas contained in the HPSC round up, Tullamore now has infection rates of at least twice those of 160 other locations.

The worst 10 locations in the country, where per 100,000 rates fell between that 755 high water mark and 349, also included Navan, Co Meath (395.1); Balbriggan, Co Dublin (391); Edenderry, Co Offaly (377.3); Ballymun-Finglas, Dublin (369); Tallaght-South, Dublin (366.6); Ongar, Dublin (365.6); and Longford (349).

On the very other end of the table lies Kenmare, Co Kerry. However it sits among several areas where infection rates are so low they barely register.

In total, 14 areas are classified as having a zero rate, or less than five cases per 100,000 people over the 14-day period.

These areas are located across nine counties and illustrate an encouraging emerging trend: in the two weeks leading up to March 8th, just two of the local electoral areas reported fewer than five cases. By last week’s data that had increased to 11.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times