Covid-19: Nphet warns against ‘risky’ St Patrick’s Day socialising as 575 cases reported

Public health expert says number of infections detected daily ‘static, if not increasing’

Prof. Philip Nolan says that Ireland is in a similar situation to Halloween, 2020, where Covid-19 case numbers rose for about a week to 10 days due to increased social mixing. Video: RTÉ

 

Public health officials have warned against people congregating on St Patrick’s Day to socialise or join protests that might infringe public health rules.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) also said it did not want to see people gathering to drink in ways that risked transmitting Covid-19.

No further deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by Nphet on Monday, with the total number of deaths in the pandemic remaining at 4,534 .

Nphet also reported 575 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 227,316 the total number detected.

Of the latest cases, there were 232 in Dublin, 48 in Meath, 41 in Tipperary, 38 in Kildare and 30 in Galway, with the remaining 186 spread across 20 other counties.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 148 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Longford has the highest county incidence, followed by Offaly and Dublin. Kilkenny has the lowest incidence.

“I noted last week that we are also seeing an increase in mobility, and, while some increase is to be expected due to many returning to school, we must continue to be very cautious,” Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group, told a media briefing on Monday evening.

Socialising

“Now is not the time to be socialising, it’s just too risky,” he said, adding that daily case figures were “static, if not increasing”.

The number of cases was down by just 3 per cent last week when comapred to the previous week, while the five-day average has risen.

Case numbers were increasing among older children and younger adults, he noted, those age from five to 38 years. However, the briefing heard very few of the cases among children were associated with school outbreaks - fewer than 10 out of 403 among five to 12-year-olds last week.

Ireland would have 1,600 to 1,700 cases a day if it were at the European average, three times the present level, assistant chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn pointed out.

Instead of 20-25 hospitalisations a day, we would have 70-80. Critical care admissions would total 24-30 daily rather than two to three.

The overall picture is deteriorating in 18 out of 19 European countries at present, he said.

“We’re by no means out of the woods,” he said.

St Patrick’s Day and Easter, along with better weather, could encourage more people to drop their guard, he warned.

People are “shattered” and “want it to be over”, Dr Glynn acknowledged, but the virus “doesn’t care” and will spread if given an opportunity.

With various types of protests planned for St Patrick’s Day, he warned about against congregation that broke public health advice.

Vaccine

By the end of last week, some 130,000 over-85s had received a vaccine dose, Dublin GP Dr Ray Walley told the Nphet briefing.

This would increase to 180,000 by the end of this week as more older patients, including those in hospital and who are house-bound, are vaccinated, he said.

Dr Glynn said that while vaccines are on the way, “they will not stop a wave over the coming weeks”.

He said people should not be meeting up over the next few days, but if they are they should not meet inside or congregate with many other households.

Of the decision by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee to recommend suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, its chair Prof Karina Butler said it was taken after reports of complicated clotting in four patients in Norway, two of whom had died.

She it was not yet clear whether the report represented a single phenomenon or involved different rare conditions.

“It was not about normal clots in the population, it was about a few very particular, rare conditions clustering together.”

Stop and think

That fact that three of the Norwegian cases occurred in a single hospital in two-week period in a particular age-group “made one say we need to stop and think”.

Since the weekend, it has emerged there have been no such cases among vulnerable people in the UK, where 11 millions doses of AstraZeneca have been administered, she said.

The European Medicines Agency, which is investigating the reported issues, on Monday said the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine “outweigh” the risks of side effects.

Prof Butler said she was hopeful the result of an investigation by the European Medicines Agency will be available by the end of the week.

On Monday morning, 360 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 85 were in ICU. There were 25 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

As of Friday, 606,904 doses of vaccine had been administered, with 163,812 people fully vaccinated against the disease.