Covid-19: 60 more deaths, 3,231 new cases as Holohan warns too many still breaking rules

Chief medical officer says in some counties one in ten people has virus or is close contact

A mass-vaccination drive for GPs and practice nurses has begun in Ireland. Three centres delivering Moderna vaccine jabs have been opened in Galway, Portlaoise and the Phoenix Park, Dublin as seen in the video above.

 

A total of 60 deaths and 3,231 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

This brings to 2,595 the total number of deaths from Covid-19 and 169,780 the number of cases in the Republic since the onset of the pandemic.

One of the deaths was in December with the rest occurring in January.

The Department of Health said the median age of those who died is 85 years, and the age range is 65 to 100 years. There were no newly reported deaths among healthcare workers or those under 30.

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer, said the virus has taken root in every single part of the country.

“A significant percentage of the population - in excess of 1 in ten in some counties - is currently either a case or a close contact. This is a huge burden of infection,” he said.

“When you consider that a significant percentage of our daily cases will directly lead to hospitalisation and mortality, the urgency with which we need to act becomes clear.

“By staying at home, you are protecting our health and social care services as they struggle against the enormous burden of infection that many weeks with thousands of daily cases of Covid-19 represents.”

‘Not complying’

Dr Holohan also said the improvements in case numbers is not happening fast enough. “Too many people are still not complying as fully as we need with the advice,” he added.

“There are early indications that we may be levelling off in terms of improvement, but at far, far too high a level of infection. The UK variant is very likely making our challenge more difficult. Please follow the public health advice. The safest place at the moment is at home. Please stay at home.”

Of the 3,231 new cases, 931 cases are in Dublin, 388 in Cork, 238 in Louth, 155 in Waterford, 151 in Limerick and the remaining 1,368 cases are spread across all other counties.

The median age is 42-years-old while 54 per cent are aged under 45.

There are 1,854 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of which 191 are in intensive care (ICU). Over the past 24 hours, there has been 119 additional hospitalisations.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, medical virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said due to the nature of the mutation found in the UK variant of the virus, it is “inevitable that it will become the dominant variant here in Ireland over time”.

“The UK variant has adapted to us; simply put, it is better at moving from person to person when we come into contact,” he said.

“So what we must do is reduce its opportunities to spread by cutting out socialising. Stay home. Do not visit anyone else’s home. Do not attend illegal gatherings. Remember the simple and effective measures from springtime - wash your hands well and often, wear a mask, cough and sneeze into your elbow, keep two metres of space from others, and phone your GP at the very first sign of Covid-19 symptoms.”

Saturday also saw doctors and other healthcare workers receive Covid-19 jabs at three mass vaccination centres in Ireland.

The facilities opened in Dublin, Galway and Portlaoise on Saturday and will operate over the weekend. Each is delivering hundreds of the Moderna jabs to GPs, practice nurses and other frontline staff.

The HSE said it expected at all GPs will have received both vaccine doses by the end of February.

Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, the deaths of another 22 people with coronavirus have been recorded in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

The death toll collated by the region’s Department of Health now stands at 1,581.

On Saturday, the department also confirmed a further 705 cases of the virus.

Northern Ireland is currently in the midst of a strict six-week lockdown, with people legally obliged to stay at home and only able to venture out in a limited number of allowable circumstances.

Schools are only open for vulnerable children and those of key workers while large swathes of the hospitality, retail, leisure and entertainment sectors are closed.

While the infection rate of the virus has dropped significantly since the latest lockdown was introduced on St Stephen’s Day, the pressure on the region’s hospital remains intense, with admission numbers not expected to peak until later in January.

On Friday night, Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann warned that it was “highly unlikely” the restrictions will be significantly eased at the scheduled end of the lockdown on February 6th.

“It will be highly unlikely that we will see any great easement of where we currently are,” he said. “These conversations are being had by many governments across these islands, across the world, as to what steps we can take. “I wouldn’t want to say we will be in this format of this lockdown for another eight to 10 weeks, but will I say that we’ll go back to complete normality? No.”

As of Friday, some 133,831 coronavirus vaccinations had been administered in the region, of which 19,264 were second doses. - Additional reporting PA