Concern about rising Covid-19 cases among older people and in Dublin

People should ‘assume at all times that someone in their company has Covid’, Dr Ronan Glynn says

Public health officials have expressed concern over a rise in coronavirus cases among older people, and also in Dublin.

Seventy cases of the virus among over-75s have been reported in the past fortnight, compared to “almost none” at the start of August, according to Prof Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

The rise stems from a “delayed increase” in infections among older and vulnerable groups, he said, urging the wider population to “be cautious in their interactions with these groups”.

The chance of a person with the virus requiring hospitalisation rises from one in 100 among under-45s to one in five among those aged 75 years and over, he pointed out.

If the number of cases among older people increases, the number of patients sent to hospital will also go up, Prof Nolan told a NPHET briefing on Wednesday.

Family clusters

The capital has accounted for 45 per cent of all new cases in the past fortnight.

Attributing the rise to “lots and lots of small family clusters”, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn appealed in particular to people in Dublin to “take particular care”, reduce their social contacts over the coming days and seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms.

Dublin’s 14-day incidence is 53 per 100,000 population, compared to 33 for the country as a whole. Limerick, which has a number of major outbreaks, has an incidence of 56, Prof Nolan said.

Other counties where rising rates of infection are of concern to officials are Carlow, Tipperary and Clare.

“At this point, there is a need for people to have a high index of suspicion and to assume at all times that someone in their company has Covid,” Dr Glynn said. “Just because you know someone, or they’re your cousin or friend, is no protection.”

Every family has someone vulnerable in it, he pointed out.

Prof Nolan also expressed concern about a rise in the number of patients requiring hospitalisation, currently standing at 42, up from a low of under 10 a month ago. However, admissions to intensive care, which were at eight on Wednesday, remain stable.

A further 89 confirmed cases of the disease were reported by NPHET on Wednesday. One further death was reported, but this occurred in June.

No new coronavirus deaths have been reported for the past fortnight and just four occurred in the month of August.

The reproduction number, which measures how many people a confirmed case goes on to infect, currently stands at 1 to 1.2.

Outbreaks

A reproduction number of less than 1 means an epidemic is dying out; a figure greater than 1 signals it is spreading.

“A close analysis of case numbers and patterns over the last week suggests that the epidemic is growing very slowly in many counties across Ireland, including Dublin. A large number of cases are associated with outbreaks in private houses and families,” Prof Nolan said.

The epidemic is “stable or growing very slowly – it is still higher than we would like”, he said.

Dr Glynn ruled out any early reopening of “wet” pubs. However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said they should be given the chance to reopen and prove that they can operate safely.

Ireland was an outlier in Europe in terms of the reopening of pubs, Mr Varadkar told a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday night.

A reopening date in early October is under political consideration, according to sources.