Covid-19: 344 new cases as senior medic urges public to reduce 'mingling'

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer of the HSE said if the public reduces unnecessary "mingling" then more options are possible after Level 5 this Christmas
Covid-19: 344 new cases as senior medic urges public to reduce 'mingling'

Dr Henry said there will be more options to lift restrictions this Christmas if further progress was made under Level 5 to reduce Covid-19 case numbers. Picture: Sam Boal /

The total number of coronavirus cases in Ireland has passed 70,000, another landmark figure as a further four people were reported to have died from Covid-19, according to the Department of Health this evening. 

This brings the total number of deaths related to the virus to 2,022 since the outbreak began. 

344 more cases of coronavirus have been reported this evening as well bringing the total number of cases in the country to 70,143. 

269 people have been hospitalised from Covid-19 and 32 patients are receiving treatment in intensive care. 

12 people were admitted to hospital in the past 24 hours. 

Dublin reported the most cases today with 127 confirmed followed by Cork with 46, Louth with 26, 22 in Donegal, 20 in Limerick, and the remaining 103 cases spread across 20 other counties.

A further breakdown of the case data shows: 

  • 156 cases are men and 185 are women 
  • 69% of cases are patients under 45 years of age 
  • The median age of confirmed cases is 32 years old

The national 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population with the new cases now stands at 113.3. 

Donegal has the highest 14-day incident rate 255.0, nearly double the national average. 

The latest case data comes as Dr Colm Henry, the chief clinical officer of the HSE, urged to avoid “mingling with people unnecessarily” earlier today. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Dr Henry said more options will be available at Christmas after if social contacts can be reduced further for the remainder of the Level 5 lockdown. 

The senior medic said reported trends in recent days showed Covid-19 cases had more confirmed contacts indicating increased levels of socialisation. 

"What we see is a slight rise of the number of contacts per case. That infers there’s been some let up in that reduction of contacts and the way people intermingle with each other,” said Dr Henry.

“That R-value is not just an inanimate number. 

It’s the sum total of a million small interactions between people, all of which produce this number that tells us how much we’re interacting with each other and how much this virus is transmitting.

Options for lifting lockdown restrictions are limited when progress on reducing case numbers and the spread of the coronavirus stalls. 

Dr Henry said: "The more it sticks at this level, this stalling we’ve seen over the last few days of 300 to 400 cases per day, it narrows our options. We want to widen options as much as possible,” he said.

“The more we do now, the more we avoid mingling with people unnecessarily; and that includes employers, employees striving to work from home, the more we avoid mingling with each other in any social settings, the number of options we will have at the beginning of December, for Christmas, and that’s better for everybody.”

Meanwhile, "urgency" is the keyword for Ireland's strategy to provide access to the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Professor McCraith, Chairman of the Government's vaccine taskforce told RTÉ radio’s The Business on Saturday preparation is underway "urgently and comprehensively" to distribute the vaccine. 

He said the taskforce will provide information to the public about the vaccine when it is "available and accurate". There are currently three vaccines in production which are showing early positive indicators, according to reports.

This week, the Pfizer-BioNTech’s reported their vaccine was 95% effective, while Moderna's efforts were displaying 94.5% efficacy. Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s phase two study findings showed it causes few side effects, particularly among older people.

“We got really excellent news this week, albeit by press release. I think there’s great excitement about the indicators of at least three of the vaccines; the Oxford university one, the Moderna one and the Pfizer one. Really strong indications,” Professor MacCraith said.

Professor McCraith said the taskforce is to have its first full meeting early next week and it will look at all elements of the "end-to-end process" of the delivery of the vaccine.

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