Covid-19: Nine deaths and 522 cases reported as Taoiseach calls March vaccine target ‘challenging’

Dr Ronan Glynn says positive effect of jabs being seen with health worker infections falling

Members of the National Public Health EMergency Team are pictured at a media briefing in Dublin on Thursday evenin. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos.

Members of the National Public Health EMergency Team are pictured at a media briefing in Dublin on Thursday evenin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos.

 

Nine deaths and 522 cases of Covid-19 were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Friday as the Taoiseach said that meeting vaccination targets set for this month would be “very challenging”.

In a statement on Friday evening, Nphet said four of the deaths reported occurred this month, three in February and one in January with the other under investigation.

A total of 4,405 people with the disease have now died since the pandemic began and 222,169 cases have been confirmed. The nine people whose deaths were reported on Friday ranged in age from 69 to 94 years.

In a video posted on Twitter, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the “really positive effect of vaccinations” was being seen with a “very obvious and sustained reduction” in the number of Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers and deaths in nursing homes.

“As vaccinations ramp up in the coming weeks and months, we will have another strong tool that will enable us to move through this part of the pandemic. I know it is not easy but please stick with these measures and together we will get there,” he said.

The latest daily vaccination data shows 14,163 doses were administered in the State, bringing the total to 460,637.

Challenging

Speaking in Galway on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Ireland would not be seeking extra vaccine doses from Germany or the UK as both intend to use their full allocation.

He said it would be “very challenging” to meet targets to vaccinate 100,000 people a week in March, but that he was confident there would be greater supplies available in the second quarter, when the aim is to vaccinate 250,000 people a week.

A target of administering a total of 200,000 doses between this week and last has been missed by some 25,000, a shortcoming the HSE attributed to deliveries not arriving on time. A further 84,000 jabs are due to be administered next week.

Mr Martin reiterated that any plans to ease restrictions will only be decided in the week before Level 5 curbs are reviewed on April 5th.

After that date construction could be allowed to resume along with outdoor activities and the 5km travel limit may be widened depending on how the situation is with Covid-19.

Of the latest cases, there were 280 in Dublin, 28 in Meath, 28 in Kildare, 26 in Cork and 19 in Donegal, with the remaining 141 spread across 19 other counties.

Two-thirds of those infected were aged under 45, with a median age of 33.

Incidence rate

The national 14-day incidence of the disease stands at 185.1 cases per 100,000 people, with the highest rates of infection being recorded in Longford (393.9), Offaly (383.5) and Westmeath (272.6). Cork (59.5), Kerry (59.6) and Wexford (68.8) have the lowest rates.

The number of people in hospital with the disease has continued to decline, falling by 34 in the last 24 hours to 426.

This is the lowest number since December 29th, when there were 409 people in hospital with the disease. Hospitalisations have been gradually declining since they reached a peak of more than 2,000 in mid-January.

The number in intensive care units (ICU) decreased by three in the previous 24 hours to 102. There were 78 patients with Covid-19 on ventilators.

Earlier, HSE official Dr Colm Henry said it was hoped that some 10,000 people aged 16-64 with chronic conditions would receive vaccine doses next week.

He said the absence of a National Diseases Registry in Ireland made it difficult to identify those most at risk in this cohort.

High risk people moving to cohort 4 would be identified through the hospital system and through primary care services, he said.

“It’s not an easy task. We will begin contacting them next week – it’s about 160,000 people in all.”

Cancer patients and those with renal difficulties would be among those prioritised in the new cohort 4, he told RTÉ Radio’s News at One.

Dr Henry said issues this week with the rollout of vaccines to GPs should not have happened. However, he said the majority of the 1,300 GPs had now received their vaccine doses.

While some quantities had been kept as a buffer for those awaiting second doses, 99 per cent of the vaccines received had been delivered, he added.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid acknowledged problems with delivery of vaccines to a “small number of general practices”, but he said the “vast majority” of the rollout programme has worked well.

Essential travel

Meanwhile, An Garda Síochána has warned people to stay within their 5km zones this weekend. The force said there will be high visibility patrols at public amenities, parks and beauty spots across the country this weekend.

All adults in a car found to be undertaking a non-essential journey may be liable for a €100 fine each.

Gardai have to date issued approximately 12,000 Covid-19 fines across the range of all Covid-19 breaches.

As of March 4th, the following number of fines had been issued: 9,021 €100 fines for non-essential travel, 445 €500 fines for non-essential journeys to airports/ports, 370 €500 fines for organising a house party and 1,416 €150 fines for attending a house party.

There were 218 fines of €80 each for not wearing a face covering and 103 fines of €100 each for non-essential travel by persons not ordinarily resident in the State.