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10 days into Level 3, what does this week's Covid-19 data tell us?

We’ve broken down the latest Covid-19 data – and what it means for the weeks ahead.

Updated Dec 11th 2020, 9:45 AM

IRELAND IS WEEKS away from a Covid-19 vaccine being rolled out. 

Public Health officials remain concerned, however, about an inevitable rise in cases over Christmas. 

Health officials last night confirmed a further 315 cases of Covid-19 and 15 more deaths. 

A total of 227 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday and 215 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday

That is a total of 757 cases compared to 822 cases over the same period last week and 830 cases the week previously. 

Ireland’s reproductive number last week was estimated at between 0.8 and 1. It is now estimated at closer to 1. 

Ireland’s national incidence rate is 79 cases per 100,000 of the population on a 14-day rolling average, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre – compared to 79.7 on this day last week and 105.5 the week previous.

That is a 24% drop in the past 14 days, a slower rate of decline from 31% over the previous 14 days. 

Ireland’s Covid-19 growth rate is currently static. 

“We have the same number of cases per day now as we had two weeks ago,” Chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan told TheJournal.ie. “We’ve had Level 5′s full effect and we’re a bit higher than where we wanted to be.”

According to Professor Nolan, what will matter over the coming weeks is our rate of growth.

In a letter to Government in November, NPHET said it will be possible to suppress the spread of the virus with a 21-day intervention, but only if it begins as case numbers near 400 per day.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned last week, however, that cases are unlikely to fall below 200 per day and said NPHET’s projection of 300 to 600 cases per day by the second week of January is “conservative”. It does not take account of socialisation around Christmas.

Taking that into account, NPHET’s modelling projects an easing of restrictions from 18 December could lead to an R-number of 2 and 800 to 1,200 cases per day by the second week of January. 

However, NPHET’s modelling is based on a rapid growth rate of 100 cases per day on 1 December rising to 400 cases per day by January. 

The threshold for intervention is now likely higher – 600-700 cases cases per day – due to Ireland’s growth rate stopping and cases sticking at an average of 285 per day.

If cases begin to rise our rate of growth will be closely monitored. 

Looking at 14-day incidence rates in individual counties, these have decreased in recent weeks in line with case numbers. However, incidence in certain counties is rising. 

Donegal – which has the highest incidence of Covid-19 in Ireland – had seen its 14-day incidence rate drop from 264.5 cases per 100,000 on Friday 20 November to 212.3 last Thursday. 

It has risen over the past seven days to 230.5 cases per 100,000. 

As cases increase in Northern Ireland, cross-border transmission into Donegal is recurring, said Professor Nolan, adding that Donegal accounts for 60% of all cross-border commutes. 

Looking at Local Electoral Area data, Carndonagh LEA in north Donegal has an incidence rate of 518.7 cases per 100,000. Letterkenny LEA is currently at 322.2 cases per 100,000 – both considerably higher than Glenties LEA in west Donegal where the current incidence rate is 62.2 cases per 100,000. 

For a breakdown of incidence rates in LEAs around Ireland, see here

Kilkenny – which has seen a large hospital outbreak in recent weeks – has a 14-day incidence rate of 173.5 – a 16% increase since last Thursday. 

Louth is the third-highest county in Ireland with a 14-day incidence rate of 159.8 cases per 100,000. However, that is a 13% decrease since last Thursday. 

Counties with the lowest incidence rates include Leitrim (18.7), Westmeath (20.3) and Kerry (23.7). 

download (38) Chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan. Source: RollingNews.ie

Comparing Ireland to other European countries, Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate is lower than France (230.0), Spain (228.0), the United Kingdom (314.8) and Italy (479.3), according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

The above countries, including Ireland, are still considerably lower than both Croatia, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1171.5 cases and Luxembourg, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1202.2 cases per 100,000.

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 15.25.02 - Display 2

Testing & Tracing

Approximately 116,000 tests were carried out over the 7 days up to Thursday 22 October when Ireland entered Level 5. The positivity rate then was 6.9%. 

Approximately 103,000 tests were carried out in the 7 days up to 29 October with 88,547 tests having been carried in the seven days up to Thursday 5 November. 

Three weeks into Level 5, 77,718 tests had been carried out in the seven days up to 12 November with 77,292 tests having been carried out up to 19 November and 77,805 tests being carried out in the last seven days up to last Friday. 

So, while the number of tests had dropped by 33% between Level 5 kicking in and the halfway point on 12 November, the number of tests each week since then has remained static at around 77,000.

This week, approximately 77,000 tests have been carried in the past seven days. 

The positivity rate – which had decreased to 2.7% last week – is down to 2.4%, the lowest point since September. 

Hospital & ICU 

There have been 11 hospital admissions in the last 24 hours and 17  discharges. 

There are – as of this morning – 203 confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospitals and 36 people in Intensive Care Units.

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Last Thursday, there were 234 hospitalised cases of Covid-19 and 32 people in ICU. 

Health officials on Wednesday reported 8 further ICU cases in one day, and cautioned that Covid-19 remains an “extremely infectious” virus. 

As seen in the graph below, ICU cases have risen sharply in recent days. 

Screenshot 2020-12-10 at 15.18.32 - Display 2 Source: Department of Health

Clusters & Outbreaks

Last week saw a significant reduction in the number of household outbreaks – a key indicator as Level 5 restrictions were introduced and one which will be closely monitored leading up to Christmas. 

There were 262 new outbreaks in private homes up to Saturday 28 November – a decrease of 60% – from the previous week bringing to 7,123 the total number of outbreaks in this setting since the pandemic reached Ireland.

In a sign that viral transmission is neither rising nor decreasing there were 288 new outbreaks in private homes up to last Saturday. 

Of these, 4,744 remain open.

Screenshot 2020-12-10 at 15.12.25 - Display 2 Source: HPSC

Outbreaks in schools have also remained steady since last week. 

There were 14 outbreaks reported by the HPSC up to Saturday. There were 12 outbreaks reported in the 7 days beforehand.

The HPSC notes, however: “These outbreaks are outbreaks associated with school children +/or school staff. Transmission of Covid-19 within the school has not necessarily been established in these outbreaks.” 

The total number of outbreaks since the start of the pandemic is 9,746. Of these, 5,424 remain “open” according to the HPSC’s recent data.

For an outbreak to be considered “closed”, there must be 28 days from the last case diagnosed or becoming symptomatic.

There has also been a further 8 outbreaks in workplace settings, bringing to 29 the number of outbreaks in this setting between 28 November and today. 

Finally, there have been 5 new outbreaks in nursing homes – 32 outbreaks in nursing homes remain “open”.

Between 28 November and last Saturday, the number of outbreaks across all settings had decreased by just 1.1%. 

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