Wednesday, September 16, 2020

By Sarah Mooney

Children attend school during the pandemic. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA.

There have been three new deaths and 254 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in the Republic, according to the Department of Health.

Updates have been provided by health officials this evening concerning the growth rate of the virus, with projections of 1,000 cases per day by October 16th if transmission remains uninterrupted.

Of the cases notified today, 65 per cent are under 45 years of age. 61 per cent are confirmed to be associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case, while 24 cases have been identified as community transmission.

136 of the cases are located in Dublin, 20 in Donegal, 13 in Louth, 12 in Wicklow, nine in Waterford, seven in Carlow, seven in Cork, six in Galway, five in Kerry, and five in Wexford. The remaining 28 cases are spread across Clare, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath.

Along with Dublin we have seen particularly concerning trends in Louth, Waterford and Donegal.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, issued a particular warning for four counties: “The current situation has deteriorated both in Dublin and nationally over the past week. Along with Dublin we have seen particularly concerning trends in Louth, Waterford and Donegal.”

Dr Glynn said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) would meet tomorrow to consider “key recommendations” to curb the spread of the virus, with these counties all expected to be on the agenda.

Asked about his letter to Government of last week in which he described Dublin as a “disease reservoir,” Dr Glynn said “things have gotten worse than when NPHET last met on Friday.”

He said society now faced a turning point with individual choices making all the difference, and issued an appeal to return to the basics including hand washing, wearing a face covering, avoiding crowds and reducing contacts.

Growth rate

Asked about the recent increase in the number of cases in Dublin, Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said increasing cases were not contained to the capital.

Prof Nolan said all counties had seen a threefold increase in the number of daily cases reported there over the past number of weeks.

He added while Dublin had a higher incidence rate of the virus than the rest of the country, the R number of the virus there was “quite similar” to the rest of the country.

I am more concerned than I have been at any point since late April.

On the current R number of the virus, which represents the average number of people an infected person will pass the virus to, Prof Nolan said: “The reproduction number is between 1.3 and 1.7 nationally. I am more concerned than I have been at any point since late April.

“Case numbers appear to be growing exponentially and are likely to double every 10 to 14 days if every one of us does not immediately act to break chains of transmission of the virus.

“If we do not interrupt transmission now, bring the R number back to below one, modelling shows that we could have 500 to 1,000 cases per day by the 16th of October, 50 to 60 per cent of which would be in Dublin.”

We are seeing a sharp increase in rate of admissions of Covid-19 patients into our acute hospitals.

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer at the HSE, said: “There are currently 73 Covid-19 patients in hospital, nine of these have been admitted in the past 24 hours. 14 of these patients are in ICU. We are seeing a sharp increase in rate of admissions of Covid-19 patients into our acute hospitals.

“We know that without a reversal of these trends, admissions can escalate rapidly to the point where our healthcare facilities will be under unsustainable pressure. It is more essential than ever that we all adhere to the basic measures which can weaken the virus in the community.”

This evening’s figures come as new restrictions for the capital came into effect at midnight last night, following the announcement of the Government’s new Living with Covid-19 plan.

Dublin now has a 14 day incidence rate of 104.0 cases of the virus per 100,000, which is twice the national average of 53.0, according to new figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC).

The Government has come under scrutiny for deciding to place the capital on Level Two of its plan with the remainder of the county, however, further restrictions have not been ruled out as Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said today that there is a “strong” and a “very real possibility” that Dublin will move to Level Three.

Northern Ireland

There have been 129 new cases of the virus recorded in the North today, with 641 cases confirmed over the last seven days.

Two further deaths related to Covid-19 were recorded in the region.

Localised restrictions to curb the spread of the virus in Northern Ireland became legally enforceable today, with residents in areas such as Belfast and Ballymena barred from visiting other households.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Last week, the Executive made the difficult decision to introduce localised restrictions and sought the good will of the public to adhere to that request.

“I am very aware of the difficulties some of these restrictions might cause, however the decisions were not taken lightly.”

Mr Swann warned Northern Ireland was on a “knife edge” in regard to the prospect of a major new wave of infections.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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