Surge in people seeking Covid-19 tests in Limerick

Contact tracers find growing number of cases in county linked to social gatherings

A free pop-up walk-in testing centre is to be provided from 12pm-7pm, on the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital, Mulgrave Street for five days initially from this Wednesday. File photograph: Alan Betson

A free pop-up walk-in testing centre is to be provided from 12pm-7pm, on the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital, Mulgrave Street for five days initially from this Wednesday. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

A rise in Covid-19 infections in Limerick is leading to a surge in the number of people seeking tests for the virus in the county as the number of people in hospital has increased.

Some 920 people had sought coronavirus tests in the HSE’s walk-in centres in Limerick by 5pm on Monday compared with 526 at the same time last week, a 75 per cent increase.

Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead on testing and contract tracing, said that Covid-19 tests were seeing “very high footfall” of people through testing sites in Limerick.

There were 1,437 people seeking tests in Limerick on Saturday and Sunday compared with 804 the previous weekend as symptomatic and asymptomatic people checked to see if they are infected.

Referrals for tests from GPs have been prevented due to the cyberattack on the HSE.

The rate for people testing positive stood at 6.3 per cent in Limerick compared with a national average of 4 per cent.

Health officials urged Limerick people to work from home as local cases of surged to almost 260 in the past week, according to the Department of Public Health Mid-West.

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A free pop-up walk-in testing centre is to be provided from 12pm-7pm, on the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospital, Mulgrave Street for five days initially from this Wednesday.

A spokesman for University Hospital Limerick (UHL) said the amount of inpatient Covid-19 cases had increased from two to 12 in the past week.

Dr Mai Mannix, director of public health midwest, said her contact tracing team in Limerick had seen a growing number of cases emerging from a rise in large indoor social gatherings including house parties, birthday parties, end of year academic celebrations and the recent Eid festivities.

“We are seeing young adults, people in their 30s and 40s who are parents of young children, being hospitalised. Luckily, obviously our older age group is now immunised, so we are not seeing that group being hospitalised or infected to any large extent,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

A source at UHL said a number of patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit were in the younger adult age bracket, which was concerning.

Dr Mannix said she had not seen this level of infection in Limerick since early March and that if daily cases keep rising, coupled with the strain from dealing with the cyberattack on the HSE, the health service would find itself “in a very troubling position”.

Limited figures released by the Department of Health due to the cyberattack showed 345 new cases of Covid-19 were reported nationally, though this figure could be later revised.

There were 127 people in hospital with the virus, of whom 44 are in intensive care.

The virus positivity rate on testing is high in other parts of country, at 6 per cent in Ballymun and 5.3 per cent in Blanchardstown, Dublin and 5.3 per cent in Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Contact tracers and public health officials reported new cases among younger people and students as a result of social gatherings to mark the end of academic year or the end of exams.

In a further recovery from the cyberattack, the HSE will recommence assigning automatic appointments for close contacts of Covid-19 cases rather directing them to visit a testing centre.

Close contacts will be directed to attend “day zero” and “day 10” appointments for tests.