Vast majority sticking to Covid rules despite ‘misperception’, experts say

One further death and 687 new cases, reported in Republic

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, Department of Health, addressing the media briefing on Monday evening. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer, Department of Health, addressing the media briefing on Monday evening. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

Most of us find it tiresome sticking to public health guidelines but do so because of the importance we attach to preventing the spread of the virus, according to researchers.

Six out of 10 people say sticking with the guidelines is tiresome, but almost 80 per cent believe preventing the spread of Covid-19 is more important than the burden of restrictions, polling carried out for the Government found.

Prof Pete Lunn, head of the behavioural research unit at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), said this helped explain how measures of compliance have been rising in recent months, despite the frustrations that people feel.

“Just because we feel a particular way, does not mean that this feeling dictates our behaviour. Rather, the large majority of people in Ireland support the restrictions and are sticking to them, despite the frustrations.”

The data also show systematic misperceptions about socially activity, he said.

Half the adult population does not meet up with anyone outside their household over a 48-hour period, with less than one quarter meeting up with three or more. Yet the more socially active people believe that they are meeting fewer people than average, according to Prof Lunn.

“There is a clear misperception. Most people believe that others are enjoying more of a social life than they are. Those who are in fact most socially active do not realise this.

“The finding is important and we need to try to correct this misperception. When people appreciate effort being made by others, they typically become more likely to follow suit.”

A further one death of Covid-19 patients was reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Monday. This brings to 4,319 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Nphet also reported 687 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 220,273 the total number of cases in the Republic.

Of the new cases, 240 are in Dublin, 49 in Limerick, 44 in Offaly, 40 in Galway, 36 in Louth with the remaining 278 cases spread across 19 other counties.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 209 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Offaly has the highest county incidence, followed by Longford. Kerry has the lowest incidence

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said progress continued to be made. There were no new admissions to ICU in the last 24 hours, he pointed, for the first time since St Stephen’s Day.

There were 691 Covid-19 related deaths in February, compared to 1,309 in January.

Case numbers continue to decline, albeit slowly, according to Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling group. Last week, there were almost 10 per cent fewer cases than the previous week.

Test positivity, which had plateaued, is falling again, as are daily admissions to hospital.

Incidence among those aged 12 and under is lower than in the overall population, he added, but officials will be monitoring this closely.

Asked about the violent anti-lockdown demonstration in Dublin on Saturday, Dr Glynn said it “shouldn’t have happened”.

The actions of a “tiny minority” should not obscure the fact that the “silent majority” of the population, though fed up and annoyed with restrictions, are “sticking with it”.

Nphet will discuss the issue of mask-wearing by children at its meeting on Thursday, he said.

Children

Data released earlier by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) showed 2,113 children aged under 18 tested positive for the virus over the past fortnight including 589 cases among children aged four or younger and 814 cases among children aged 5-12.

The highest number of cases were among 25-34 year olds (1,614 cases) while another 1,594 cases were reported among 19-24 year olds. There were 1,585 cases recorded among 35-44 year olds and 1,277 among those aged 45-54. Just 244 cases, or 2.4 per cent of the total number of cases in the past fortnight, were recorded among people aged 85 or older.

Some 45 children were hospitalised with the virus over the past fortnight but none were sent to ICU.

Also on Monday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly met with counterparts from other European Union member states to discuss the impact of Covid-19 variants.

A video conference was held between health ministers from the bloc as well as representatives from the European Commission, European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA)

“We need to act now to combat the threat posed by emerging and future variants of Covid-19. It is vital to protect and maintain the effectiveness of existing and newly developed vaccines,” Mr Donnelly said.

Mr Donnelly reiterated Ireland’s support for the common EU approach to the procurement of vaccines; “It is imperative that the companies deliver on the commitments made to facilitate the much-anticipated significant increase in supply throughout this quarter.”

Vaccines

Prof Brian MacCraith, chair of the vaccine taskforce, has said first doses for over-85s will be completed this week, and the vaccination of 80-84 year olds will commence.

Those with specific medical conditions such as cancer and chronic kidney disease and the immunocompromised will begin to be vaccinated from next week, March 8th.

The use of so-called “rapid” Covid-19 tests is set to be given the green light for use in monitoring outbreaks in schools and other areas of the community.

The recommendation, due in the first half of this month, is set to be made by a group led by Prof Mark Ferguson, the director general of Science Foundation Ireland, which has been tasked with looking at the use of antigen tests.

Their use has encountered resistance as they are less sensitive than the PCR tests, which are regarded as being of a higher standard.

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