The Irish Times view on Covid-19 in Ireland: grounds for hope

The country is in a dangerous moment, but there are grounds for optimism that better news is on the horizon

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that the number of cases in Cork was “rising in a straight line”. Photograph: Clare Keogh

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that the number of cases in Cork was “rising in a straight line”. Photograph: Clare Keogh

 

Rapidly-rising rates of Covid-19 infection across the island along with a worsening of trends across all the major indicators, most worryingly hospital admissions, suggest that in Ireland’s battle to suppress Covid-19, things are likely to get worse before they get better. A week after Level 3 restrictions were imposed in Dublin, the 14-day incidence rate in the capital stands at 144.5 cases per 100,000. And the situation is worsening elsewhere. Donegal, now also on Level 3, has an incidence rate of 148.2 per 100,000, higher than in Dublin, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the number of cases in Cork was “rising in a straight line”.

While new cases will soon approach levels seen at the height of the pandemic in the spring, comparisons are of limited use given the far higher rate of testing taking place now. Many more asymptomatic and mild infections are being detected. But that’s reassuring only if we use the advantage it provides us – advance warning of what lies ahead – to stop the virus in its tracks. The Government must also use this period to ensure it has the capacity, in the test-and-trace system and in the health service itself, to deal with the inevitable pressures of the coming phase.

More than six months into the pandemic, the public has grown weary and tired. The resurgence in cases has come sooner than many expected, and we approach winter with a widespread feeling of foreboding. It’s important to remember, however, that even in this challenging period progress is being made. We know from the success of earlier partial lockdowns in Kildare, Laois and Offaly that regional surges can be contained with measures short of all-out shutdowns. Cases in Limerick, Leitrim and Tipperary have fallen in recent days, and there has been strong adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing, which reduce transmission. A remarkable global mobilisation means that almost 20 vaccine candidates are now in phase 3 trials, with some due to apply for approval before the end of the year. The country is in a dangerous moment, but there are grounds for hope that better news is on the horizon.

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