Holohan urges people to limit contacts as Ireland's Covid-19 infection rate rises again

Holohan urges people to limit contacts as Ireland's Covid-19 infection rate rises again

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer at the Department of Health, said the rise in Irish infection rates should prompt people to limit socialising in the run-up to Christmas. File Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins

Chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan has expressed concern over a rise in the Covid-19 infection rate and again urged people to limit their social contacts in the run-up to Christmas.

The top Department of Health official was commenting on the latest Covid-19 figures yesterday when one further death and 429 new cases of viral infection were confirmed.

The total number of Covid-19 deaths in Ireland now stands at 2,124 and the number of cases at 76,185.

The confirmation of more than 400 new infections yesterday has increased the national 14-day infection rate and prompted the CMO to make renewed calls for people to take extra precautions and limit contacts in the next two weeks.

The majority of the new cases were confirmed in Dublin (122), Donegal (46), Limerick (30), Laois (22), and Cork (20), with the remaining 189 cases spread across all other counties.

As of lunchtime yesterday, 193 patients remained in hospital with Covid-19, with 31 in intensive care.

The 14-day Covid-19 infection rate now stands at 84.3 cases per 100,000 population nationally, with 12 counties having a higher than national average infection rate.

The highest infection rate is in Donegal (219.9 cases per 100,000 population), while three other counties had rates that are around double the national average — Kilkenny (198.5 cases per 100,000 population), Louth (174.6 cases per 100,000 population), and Carlow (159.8 cases per 100,000 population).

While Ireland continues to have the lowest Covid-19 infection rate in the EU, Dr Holohan said the recent uptick in case numbers and the infection rate was cause for concern.

“I am concerned that we are seeing the incidence of Covid-19 rising again — 429 is a large number of cases by the standard of recent weeks and the five-day moving average has now increased above 300 per day,” said Dr Holohan. 

While everyone’s efforts under level 5 restrictions brought the infection rate down to 78 cases per 100,000 population, the lowest in Europe, the CMO urged caution as Christmas approaches.

“Take today’s figures as a sign that we all must now reduce our social contacts, limit our interactions with those outside our households, weigh the risks of what socialising we are planning over the next two weeks, so that we can all have as safe a Christmas as possible,” said Dr Holohan.

In Europe, Croatia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, and Slovenia have the highest Covid-19 infections rates at above 1,000 cases per 100,000 population.

Meanwhile, deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said there were reasons to be hopeful as we move into 2021, but that barriers to rolling out a national Covid-19 vaccination programme must be overcome.

Although research suggested that the majority of people are willing to take a new vaccine, “transparency and trust” will be needed to build vaccine confidence among the public and to counter rumour and misinformation.

While the country had avoided the “devastating” impact of the virus as observed elsewhere in Europe, Dr Glynn cautioned that it will take time for new vaccines to be rolled out and to take effect.

“A vaccine will not have any positive impact on the trajectory of this disease for months to come," said Dr Glynn. "In the meantime, we must continue to hold firm; to paraphrase Mike Ryan, we need to continue to do all we can to save lives now, not the lives we promise to save next year. Let’s see this through together.” 

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