The country is on high alert this bank holiday weekend for a potential second surge in Covid-19 cases as it emerged that the vast majority of patients with virus symptoms are not self-isolating.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said that a survey of GPs has revealed that most people who have contacted them after developing symptoms over the last week have been carrying on as normal rather than self-isolating as per public health advice.
Meanwhile, the acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said that the authorities “may be beginning to see more cases which we cannot link to outbreaks or close contacts”.
He said that NPHET will “continue to monitor this situation closely over the coming days”.
The news came as the country posted another relatively high figure for confirmed coronavirus cases. NPHET said that 38 new cases have been recorded, though this was significantly lower than the figure of 85 announced on Thursday. The median age among the new cases is just 30.
No new deaths have been recorded, said NPHET.
Of the 38 new cases, 36 originated in either Dublin or Kildare, with the latter having been the source of a large outbreak of the virus in recent days at a pet food factory in Naas.
Mass testing has now taken place in relation to “a number of known outbreaks”, said Dr Glynn.
Regarding the issue of people with symptoms not isolating, he said that “the importance of isolating as soon as you have any flu-like symptoms cannot be overstated”.
“Without this individual action, we simply will not break the chains of transmission and we will put many people at risk of infection,” he said, adding a reminder that there is no charge for GP or testing services concerning the virus.
With the countrywide picture becoming increasingly worrying over the past week, Dr Glynn said political distractions over the green list for international travel have served only to hide the fact that the virus is at its most dangerous within the community itself.
He said the sudden rise in cases is unsurprising given the highly infectious nature of the illness.
“We’re hopeful that what we are seeing, in fact, is evidence that our contact-tracing system is working really, really well,” Dr Glynn told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
He said, however, that “now is not the time for a knee-jerk reaction”.
With between 30 and 40 of the cases notified in recent days attributable to an outbreak at the Irish Dog Foods factory in Naas, and with many of those workers living in direct provision centres, one of which is understood to be located in the nearby town of Newbridge, Dr Glynn said that social distancing “does appear to be more difficult” in such living circumstances.
Separately, the Department of Justice confirmed that “a number” of its accommodation centres in the midlands had experienced cases of the virus following the Kildare outbreak.
It said that all of those cases either have been moved off-site or are self-isolating in the centres, which are being “cleaned rigorously”.