At least 514 people have been reinfected with Covid-19 here since the pandemic began, and the rate of reinfection has escalated since Christmas.
Figures from the Department of Health have shown some reinfections barely three months apart, while January this year, when record numbers of cases of the virus were diagnosed, also saw the highest number of reinfections.
While case numbers fell after that peak, the reinfection rate has increased and was at its highest level in March.
Data extracted from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre’s Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting System (CIDR), up to March 24, showed 514 reinfections, which accounts for just 0.02% of all confirmed cases of coronavirus since the first confirmed case here over 14 months ago.
"Fifty-two percent of reinfections occurred within six months of the initial infection and 48% occurred after six months," said a spokesperson for the department. "The mean number of days between infections was 191, the median was 177, and the range was 85-364 days.
Almost half of those who were later reinfected first caught the virus in April 2020 (223), while the highest monthly total of reinfections was in last January, with 209. That figure included 36 people who were diagnosed with their first infection just last October.
While overall case numbers fell in February, so did reinfections, although 102 were still recorded, including eight people who first contracted the virus just last November, while in the first 24 days of March another 59 reinfections were recorded, including three people first infected last December.
The first reinfections were spotted last July but the percentage of overall cases that were reinfections has increased in recent months, from 0.2% in January to 0.4% in February and 0.5% in the proportion of March for which data was available.
It comes as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said frontline members experiencing long-term Covid symptoms are not getting the medical or employment supports they need.
The union’s conference will hear from four nurses on Friday regarding ongoing severe symptoms from a Covid infection, including extreme exhaustion, brain fog, breathing difficulties, heart issues, and vision impairment.
The union is calling for Government and employer measures including tailored medical supports, research into long Covid impacts, a guarantee that healthcare workers with long Covid will not face income cuts, and flexible rehabilitation back into work.
More than 7,500 nurses and midwives have contracted Covid-19 in Ireland.
“Long Covid is a condition that takes so much out of people and they’re simply not being treated fairly," said INMO president and nurse Karen McGowan.
“We are all looking forward to a time after this pandemic, but we cannot forget those who took great risks to provide care and are being left in the lurch.
“The very least they deserve is long-term certainty about their employment and income rights and a guarantee of medical care."