‘Next week’ before impact of midlands Covid-19 restrictions becomes clear

Dr Ronan Glynn was commenting on the latest Covid-19 figures, which confirmed 35 new cases and one further death.
‘Next week’ before impact of midlands Covid-19 restrictions becomes clear
Ronan Glynn: 'It is important to look at the wider trends we see in this disease in Ireland for context, and not simply one day’s figures in isolation.' Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins 

It will be next week before health officials can say if the current Covid-19 outbreak in the midlands is under control, the Acting Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health has said.

Dr Ronan Glynn was commenting on the latest Covid-19 figures, which confirmed 35 new cases and one further death.

The majority of new cases were under the age of 45 and were linked to existing outbreaks or close contacts of a confirmed case; five were spread through community transmission.

There are now 26,801 confirmed cases and 1,773 Covid-19 fatalities to date.

“The number of confirmed cases notified to us daily is likely to rise and fall this week," said Dr Glynn. 

"It is important to look at the wider trends we see in this disease in Ireland for context, and not simply one day’s figures in isolation.”

It will be next week before we see if measures introduced last weekend in Kildare, Laois, and Offaly have had the desired effect in suppressing Covid-19 in these areas and minimising community transmission.

On Tuesday, the Government confirmed it has begun drawing up a fresh plan to chart the country through further challenges over the next six to nine months and will also begin weekly Covid-19 testing in meat plants and direct provision centres nationwide.

The medium-term plan was discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 on Tuesday, which heard that the incidences of community transmission remained stable.

The figures come as the HSE confirmed a Covid-19 outbreak on a 31-bed ward at Naas General Hospital in Co Kildare but said patients had not tested positive for the virus. 

The ward is now closed to new admissions and an outbreak control team has been undertaking testing and contact tracing.

There are also reports that several of the 36 cases of Covid-19 identified in Limerick in the last fortnight are linked to a house party in Co Clare.

Separately, O’Brien Fine Foods confirmed that it hopes to begin a phased reopening of its plant at Timahoe in Co Kildare on August 24, subject to HSE approval.

In a statement, the company, one of four meat plants with Covid-19 outbreaks in the midlands, said testing of employees began on Tuesday and would be repeated next week.

“We are adopting a slow, controlled and phased approach to reopening with normal operations due to resume from 24 August," said the company. 

"Minimal warehousing operations, as approved by the HSE will continue at significantly reduced capacity levels.

This sudden spike is difficult to comprehend for all of us and we will continue to take every necessary action to address it in full.

Meanwhile, immunology expert Professor Tómas Ryan warned that if there are further cases of Covid-19 in the counties of Laois, Offaly, and Kildare, it would be necessary to extend the restrictions to four to six weeks.

The Trinity College professor told Newstalk Breakfast that two weeks of restrictions may not be sufficient to contain the current outbreak in the midlands.

 “I can’t see how two weeks will be sufficient to contain this,” said Prof Ryan.

A regional approach is the way to go, he said, suggesting a traffic light system of zones that would allow some counties to open up if they did not have cases for over two weeks.

“This system has been used in other countries and it worked very well. The evidence is that using the green zone system can flatten the curve.” 

The World Health Organisation said countries were correct to put in place local lockdowns instead of countrywide measures.

It comes as the global number of Covid-19 cases has reached 20m and the number of fatalities worldwide looks set to surpass 750,000 in the near future, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre.

More than 400,000 people across counties Kildare, Laois, and Offaly are impacted by the local Covid-19 containment restrictions announced last Friday. The measures will remain in place until August 22 at least.

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