Number of contacts per diagnosis almost double since restrictions eased

In one case diagnosed with Covid-19, the individual named 25 contacts

Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation has said that the fight against Covid-19 is far from over and that the pandemic ‘is still evolving’. Video: WHO

 

The number of contacts identified by people diagnosed with Covid-19 has been rising since restrictions were eased three weeks ago and has now almost doubled.

The median number of contacts per diagnosis has risen to close to 3.5 per person in the weeks since May 18th, compared with an average of two per person when full restrictions were in place.

The Health Service Executive has said in one case diagnosed last week, the individual named a total of 25 contacts, a level that has not been seen since the early stages of contact tracing last March.

When the tracing process began in mid-March, the average number of close contacts was 20. This dropped very quickly to an average of three and the median close contacts being two per person. In the first week of restrictions being lifted the median moved from two to three and is now heading towards four.  

The news comes as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned a second wave of Covid-19 would wipe out any chance of economic recovery in Ireland either for this year or next.

In its latest economic forecast, the OECD said as things stand, GDP would likely fall by 6.8 per cent this year due to the pandemic, before returning to 4.8 per cent growth in 2021.

It warned, however, that the economy would contract by 8.7 per cent this year with little or no sign of recovery in 2021 if a coronavirus outbreak reoccurred.

The OECD also forecast that the unemployment rate here could be anywhere between 10.8 per cent and 12.3 per cent in 2020.

The figures come as the organisation predicted the global economy would contract 6 per cent this year before bouncing back with 5.2 per cent growth in 2021, providing the coronavirus outbreak is kept under control.

Reopening the economy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cautioned that the plan to reopen the economy was contingent on the virus being kept under control but also signalled more areas being eased ahead of schedule.

“There is always the risk that it might make a comeback… It is possible that the worst is over, but it’s not over yet,” he said.

In an interview on RTÉ’s 2FM, Mr Varadkar also said hairdressers could be allowed to reopen earlier than previously planned and he described as “too slow” the Government’s initial five phase roadmap to reopen the country from the coronavirus lockdown by August.

Government sources said on Wednesday night that hairdressers and barbers would reopen on June 29.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is due to meet on Thursday to review progress in the pandemic, and to review the World Health Organisation’s updated advice on face coverings.

The meeting will consider “communications regarding appropriate use of face coverings in community settings”, according to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has meanwhile announced a €75 million childcare package to allow creches reopen while not imposing additional financial burdens on parents.

Under the scheme, creches will not charge higher fees than they did before the Covid-19 crisis.

The plans, however, have been described as “short-sighted” and a “major disappointment” with particular criticism that it will run only until August 23rd.

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