Covid-19: Three more deaths and 324 new cases in State as ‘green list’ of countries reduced

‘Imperative’ for counties with high numbers to reduce spread of virus - Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin on a visit the Oliver Bond flat complex in Dublin on Thursday. He said there was general rising trend of Covid-19 cases across the country.   Photograph: Julien Behal

Taoiseach Micheál Martin on a visit the Oliver Bond flat complex in Dublin on Thursday. He said there was general rising trend of Covid-19 cases across the country. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

An additional three people with Covid-19 have died, while a further 324 cases of the virus were reported in the State, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has said.

Thursday’s figures bring the total number of cases to 33,994 and the number of Covid-19 related deaths to 1,797.

Of Thursday’s cases, 167 are in Dublin, 42 in Donegal, 34 in Cork, 13 in Monaghan, 12 in Kildare, eight in Cavan, six each in Limerick, Meath and Roscommon and five in Wicklow, with the remaining 25 cases in 11 counties.

Some 169 of the cases were confirmed in men and 155 were confirmed in women, while 64 per cent were under 45 years of age.

Additonally, 52 per cent of cases are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed cases, while 81 cases have been identified as community transmission.

The HSE said it is working to identify any contacts the patients may have had to provide them with information and advice to prevent further spread.

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said public health doctors are “coming across more cases arising from people who are close contacts of confirmed cases and are not restricting the movements”.

“Remember that Covid-19 is highly contagious and you can be infectious without symptoms. If you are a close contact of a confirmed case please follow the guidelines on hse.ie and restrict your movements for 14 days – do not go to school or work, do not have visitors to your home, do not go to the shop or pharmacy unless it is absolutely necessary.”

He added: “Please avail of a test when it is offered. Last week one in 10 close contacts who had a test were found to be positive – many of them had no symptoms.”

Green list

Meanwhile, the Government’s green list of countries, which Irish people can travel to without having to restrict their movements upon their return, has been updated again, with seven countries being removed.

From Monday, just four countries - Cyprus, Finland, Latvia and Liechenstein - will be on the list. The seven countries that will be removed from the list on Sunday are; Cyprus; Finland; Germany; Iceland; Latvia; Lithuania and Poland.

With rates of Covid-19 beginning to rise again in most European countries, the incidence in each of the seven countries has risen above the threshold of 25 cases per 100,000 of population applied by Irish officials when establishing the make-up of the list last week.

Incidence rates

Earlier on Thursday, the Taoiseach has said it is “imperative” for counties with high numbers of new Covid-19 cases to reduce the spread of the virus as soon as possible.

Micheál Martin said he was particularly concerned about the 18 to 35 years of age cohort, especially with the return of third level colleges.

He was speaking as the latest published 14-day incidence rates of Covid-19 in Dublin show a risen again after a one-day decline following two weeks of increases in infections.

The incidence rate in Dublin stood at 140.3 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, up from 136.9 a day earlier following a drop from 138 cases per 100,000 on Sunday.

There were recorded increases again in the incidence rates in the worst-affected areas of Dublin after the daily recording of brief declines, according to the latest Health Protection Surveillance Centre 14-day report. The rate in Dublin North West rose above the 200 cases per 100,000 people again on Tuesday, reaching 200.3 cases, while Dublin South West reached 152.3 cases, up from 146.7 cases. Cases in Dublin South East stood at 150.4 cases per 100,000, up from 143.9. The national average stood at 73.9 cases per 100,000, up from 70.7.

Donegal has the next highest number of cases for a county with 122.5 cases per 100,000, up from 106.2 a day earlier and a more than two-fold increase from the 45.9 cases per 100,000 reported a week earlier.

Prof Philip Nolan, chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said on Wednesday night that it was “too early” to say that the spread of the disease had stabilised with the 14-day cumulative infection rate not rising as fast in recent days as it had in the past week.

He told the NPHET briefing that it would be several days ”or perhaps another week” before it could be seen whether the restrictions announced for Dublin last week were having any effect.

NPHET was meeting on Thursday to examine trends in the virus and also the impact of the additional restrictions imposed on Dublin last week.

Last night the State’s acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn declined to speculate on whether public health officials would recommend moving other counties where infections were high up to the Level 3 public restrictions currently imposed on Dublin.

However, he raised specific warnings about increasing infection rates in Donegal, Louth and Waterford along with parts of north Wicklow and east Kildare that border Dublin.

Asked by reporters at an event at Dublin’s Oliver Bond flats complex on Thursday morning if he expected the NPHET to recommend that other counties move to Level 3 restrictions, Mr Martin said he would not pre-judge the advice that would be provided to Cabinet.

“The next 10 days will be critical. We are aware of counties like Donegal and Louth and others where the numbers are going in the wrong direction.

“I’ve been speaking to the Chief Medical Officer and we are also are concerned about large urban areas and cities in particular, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway

“The situations for those cities is critical over the next 10 days and the behaviour has to change quite frankly.”

He also expressed concern about the concentration of new cases in the 18-35 age bracket, especially with the reopening of third level colleges.

“It is imperative that action is taken know both collectively and as individuals, and in those particular locations to get the numbers down and stabilised.”

Young people

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also warned young people that they need to be aware of the long term health impact of Covid-19 and not think they are immune from significant health consequences from the virus.

Young people “may end up with a weak heart or lungs for the rest of your life, so please don’t be trying to get this,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

Mr Varadkar said while there was a lot still to learn about Covid-19 what was clear was that it was not like flu.

Coronavirus was much more infectious and dangerous, he said.

Referring to the €600 million allocated for the Winter Plan - a sum designed to assist the health service deal with the additional pressures created by the pandemic - Mr Varadkar said just one per cent of hospital beds are currently being used by Covid-19 patients and that was before the additional 1,000 beds due to come on stream as part of the plan.

Even if the level of Covid cases got three times worse, he said, the health system would still not be struggling, but he warned that things might get “much worse than three times worse”.

Addressing questions about Ireland’s testing and tracing system, Mr Varadkar said the Irish health system has carried out more tests per head than Germany, Sweden and the UK.

With regard to tracing, and the fact that the Irish system only traces back contacts within 48 hours, Mr Varadkar said it would never be possible to identify where every outbreak happened.

Another area of concern is rising coronavirus infections among older people, as four times more people aged over 65 have caught the disease than five weeks ago, State health officials have said.

Prof Nolan issued stark warnings on Wednesday evening about the impact of rising rates of infection over recent weeks.

“If we are starting to suppress the virus again, it is essential that we maintain this effort: limit our social contacts, limit mixing between households. The next 10 days are critical,” he told journalists at NPHET’s media briefing.

He said that it was “worrying” to report one to two admissions every day of people with Covid-19 to intensive care units and seven new admissions to hospital on average over the past week. The majority of people admitted to ICU were under 65 and “quite a few are young,” he said.

“We started to mix more than was safe and in an unsafe manner going back several weeks now and the transmissions that occurred then are catching up on us now,” said Prof Nolan.

There were 234 new cases reported on Wednesday with 103 of them in Dublin (44 per cent), 30 in Donegal, 22 in Galway, 21 in Cork, 13 in Wicklow, 12 in Louth, nine Kildare and eight in Meath.

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