Coronavirus: One further death and 408 new cases confirmed in the State

More than 30% of eligible population have received one dose, as 12.5% fully vaccinated

A walk-in test centre in Dublin. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A walk-in test centre in Dublin. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

One additional death and 408 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

It takes the number of deaths to 4,919 and the number of cases to 252,303 respectively.

The five-day moving average is now 406. Of the 408 new cases, 77 per cent are under the age 45 and the median age is 31.

There were 110 Covid-19 patients in hospital on Saturday morning, a fall of 10 overnight, of whom 33 are in ICU, a fall of one.

A record number of 46,374 Covid-19 vaccinations were carried out on Thursday, according to the latest figures.

The number surpasses the previous record for a single day of 44,534 vaccines carried out on April 30th.

There were 33, 915 first doses administered and 12,219 second doses on Thursday There was also 23 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose which were given to homeless people in Dublin.

The total number of vaccines administered to Thursday evening was 1,746,912 comprising of 1,267,086 first doses (32.6 per cent of the eligible population over the age of 16) and 479,745 second doses.

It means that 12.5 per cent, or one-in-eight of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

According to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, 500,000 people have now registered on the HSE portal to receive their vaccines. Currently the portal is registering people who are 55.

On Saturday morning HSE chief executive Paul Reid tweeted that the vaccination programme is working with the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital down to 111 with 34 in ICU down from 2,000 hospitalised and 200 in ICU in January.

It has emerged that pop-up testing centres may be turned into permanent facilities for the duration of the pandemic in parts of the country where Covid-19 rates are still high.

The HSE is currently operating 16 walk-in facilities across the country. They are designed to allow asymptomatic people to get a test free of charge.

To date 62,300 have been tested at walk-in centres and more than 2,000 cases of Covid-19 have been found, indicating a positivity rate of 3.5 per cent.

Approximately half of those who test positive exhibited mild symptoms although the walk-in centres are supposed to be for people who are asymptomatic only.

Currently the walk-in centres are testing 2,000 people a day.

HSE national lead in test and trace Niamh O’Beirne said the highest disease prevalence is in north and west Dublin and in Donegal where the walk-in centres are showing positivity rates as high as 7 per cent.

This compares to a positivity rate nationally for those with symptoms, or as close contacts of a positive case, referred by GPs for a test of 2.5 per cent.

Virus hot spots in Dublin include Coolock, the Liberties, Blanchardstown, Mulhuddart, Finglas, Tallaght and Ballymun. In Letterkenny a positivity rate of 5 per cent was observed among the 2,000 people who turned up for testing this week.

Ms O’Beirne said the walk-in centres shows that they need static sites in these areas. “We need to be continuously there and we need to make it easy for people who live in those communities to access testing,” she said. “The data is telling us we need to be there and we need to stay there as well.”

The HSE has also been involved in seven-day contact tracing for those people who test positive at the walk-in centres.

The source of infection can be established for 80 per cent of positive cases identified at walk-in centres, with 20 per cent of people claiming they do not know where they picked up the virus.

Of the 20 per cent, almost half (47 per cent) said they thought they might have picked it up while shopping, followed by work (19.2 per cent) and transport (4.2 per cent). Only about 1 per cent claim they might have picked it up at a social gathering.

Ms O’Beirne explained that the vast majority of those who pick up Covid-19 in a social setting such as a birthday party or a funeral are included in the 80 per cent of those where the source of transmission is known.

She expects Covid-19 testing to continue for the rest of the year at least. “We know we will need everything we have now throughout the summer,” she said. “Our concern is that when we open up society, young people can move the disease, but it will not necessarily have an impact on hospitalisations and ICUs. We may have a rise in cases, but it won’t have a knock-on impact. How much of that will we tolerate?

“We will look again in September to see what we need. We are looking at the UK and Israel and seeing what is happening in those countries. Can they keep Covid-19 under control?”

She anticipates that next year Covid-19 will move to being a seasonal illness, similar to the flu or the common cold.