Ireland has fourth-highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the EU

Ireland has fourth-highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the EU

Experts have warned that the rise of the Delta variant will add pressure to already stretched emergency departments.

Ireland has the fourth-highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in the EU, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

It comes as an expert warned that the rise of the Delta variant will add pressure to already stretched emergency departments.

Data from the EU agency shows that Ireland’s incidence rate is currently 109.16 per 100,000 population, with only Cyprus (493.13), Portugal (240.53) and Spain (215.12) being higher.

The figures show data for the two weeks up to July 4.

Romania has the lowest incidence rate, at 3.61, followed by Poland (3.87) and Hungary (6.47).

Last week, the Irish Examiner reported that Ireland has agreed on a deal to buy one million vaccines from Romania.

Data collected by the ECDC shows that there have been 275,571 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland while there have been 5,006 deaths since the pandemic began.

Buncrana has the highest incidence rate in the country, with 880.8 per 100,000 and 197 cases in the area.

Last night, 534 new cases of the virus were confirmed in Ireland.

The Chief Medical Officer urged members of the public to continue to adhere to public health advice over the weekend.

“If you are not yet fully vaccinated and you plan to socialise, please do so safely and meet outdoors. Please avoid crowds, wear a mask where appropriate, wash your hands, manage your contacts and maintain your social distance,” said Dr Tony Holohan.

"If you develop symptoms of Covid-19 over the weekend, make sure to arrange a test as soon as possible and don’t put it off until Monday to contact your GP or attend a testing centre."

'Alternative pathways'

Meanwhile, emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickey has warned that the Delta variant is going to add even more pressure to already overwhelmed emergency departments. 

He called on the HSE to create “alternative pathways” for patients presenting with conditions that were not strictly emergencies.

“Many emergency departments over the last three to four weeks have set new records for daily attendance. Given that these are new records, they're actually higher than the level we would expect to see over the winter period," he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“If you add the effect of the Delta variant to that, that's going to make it even more difficult - at the moment we cannot achieve social distancing in most emergency departments, it's simply impossible as a result of the numbers and therefore the situation is dangerous.

“It will just become more dangerous if we have more patients arising from the Delta variant.” 

Dr Hickey explained that there were four categories of patients who present at emergency departments, two categories were acutely unwell patients or people who had been injured. 

There were two further categories – people who had “run out of road,” who had not been able to access a GP and those who had been referred by a GP as they could not offer them treatment because of the pandemic.

For those who have a problem that was untreated as a result of the pandemic, the HSE needed to look at creating alternative pathways for those patients because the option of sending someone self-presenting to the emergency department really did not solve the problem, he said. 

Dr Hickey added that another way to ease pressure on emergency departments was for “maximum possible vaccination.” He cautioned that there were some people who thought they would not be impacted by Covid.

We know that 10% of those who suffer from Covid end up with this condition long Covid, which is both very debilitating for patients, but also will have a massive impact on the health service down the road.

People needed to follow the advice from the beginning of the pandemic, wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance, he said. 

“They're more important than ever, it seems ludicrous that our nearest neighbour across the water that they're deciding to ignore all this science and basically return themselves to what they would consider to be normal.”

Monaghan based GP Dr Illona Duffy echoed the concerns about the pressure a rise in Covid cases will have on health services.

Dr Duffy said that her own practice had noticed a definite increase, going from no cases for two months, to three positive cases in the past week.

“Already this week we've had three - we're definitely seeing a rise in the number of people who are ringing us and requiring testing, they've got Covid-type symptoms. We're also aware that many patients are self-referring, they're going online and registering or they're walking into the test centres.

“Clearly people themselves are concerned and worried that they may have Covid. We're also hearing more stories and having contact from more patients who have been advised that they are close contacts of positive cases.” 

Dr Duffy said it was disappointing to see the rise in cases because there had been a drop which had appeared to be contained and sustained.

It comes as HSE boss Paul Reid said the spread of the Delta variant is likely to “outmatch” the supply of vaccines over the coming weeks.

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