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As Ireland reopens, what does this week's Covid-19 data tell us?

Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate has dropped by 27% in the past 14 days.

WILL CASES DECREASE further before they rise?

Health officials last night confirmed a further 183 cases of Covid-19 and six more deaths. However – due to an IT error – up to 100 cases were unreported, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said.  

A total of 270 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday and 269 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday

That is a total of 822 cases compared to 830 cases over the same period last week and 1,174 cases the week previously. 

Ireland’s reproductive number last week was estimated at between 0.7 and 0.9. It is now estimated at between 0.7 and 1. 

Ireland’s national incidence rate is 79.7 cases per 100,000 of the population on a 14-day rolling average, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre – compared to 105.5 on this day last week and 116.5 the week previous.

That is a 31% drop in the past 14 days, an improvement on a 22% drop seen over the previous 14 days. 

Focus will now turn to tracking the disease as society gradually reopens in the lead-up to Christmas. 

“The level of disease has come down enormously,” Chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan told TheJournal.ie.

However, he cautioned that mobility data suggests greater movement of the population and that it is unlikely we will see a further decrease in cases over the coming weeks. 

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 15.25.50 - Display 2 Source: HPSC

It was noted last week that 14-day incidence rates in individual counties have decreased in recent weeks in line with case numbers. That is still the case. 

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

That is a 19.7% decrease in two weeks. 

Louth remains the second-highest county in Ireland with a 14-day incidence rate of 175.4 cases per 100,000 but has dropped back to levels seen two weeks ago after a 15% increase last week.  

Limerick had seen a 12% increase in its 14-day average between 20 and 27 November but has since dropped back down to 134.4 cases per 100,000 – a 28% decrease since last week. 

Kilkenny, however, has seen a rise in cases with its 14-day average rising from 126 cases to 145.1 cases per 100,000 today. 

Counties with the lowest incidence rates include Leitrim (15.6), Westmeath (27) and Wexford (29.4), all of which have seen a decrease in incidence of between 11% and 64% over the past week. 

download (36) Chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

By comparison to Europe, Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate is lower than France (267.9), Spain (299.2), the United Kingdom (343.5) and Italy (611.8), according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

It is worth nothing that all four of these European countries have reduced their 14-day incidence rate by between 23% and 41% in the past seven days. 

The above countries, including Ireland, are still considerably lower than both Croatia, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1083.5 cases and Luxembourg, which has a 14-day incidence rate of 1213.2 cases per 100,000.

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 15.25.02 - Display 2 Source: ECDC

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 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 then remained static at around 77,000.

This week, approximately 74,647 tests have been carried in the past seven days. 

The positivity rate – which had increased to 3.8% last week – is now back down to 2.7%, the lowest point yet during Level 5.

It has remained at 2.7% for the past week, a further indication that Ireland’s rate of decline has slowed, if not stalled. 

Hospital & ICU

There have been 14 hospital admissions in the last 24 hours and 10 discharges. 

There are – as of this morning – 234 confirmed Covid-19 cases in hospitals and 32 people in Intensive Care Units.

Last Thursday, there were 253 hospitalised cases of Covid-19 and 35 people in ICU. 

As seen in the graph below, ICU cases peaked between Saturday 1 November and Monday 3 November, fell back down to the lowest point since 28 October on 4 October, rose again this week but have since declined. 

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Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 15.37.41 - Display 2 Source: Department of Health

Clusters & Outbreaks

One key point to highlight this week is a significant reduction in the number of household outbreaks, which was a major concern and a key indicator as Level 5 restrictions were introduced. 

There were 262 new outbreaks in private homes up to last Saturday – 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.

Of these, 4,688 remain open.

“The proportion of cases linked to household outbreaks is lower than in mid-November. It may that there’s been a delay in linking cases,” said Professor Nolan. 

“But there’s a misunderstanding of household outbreaks, that the disease is transmitting in households. Once it gets in to a household some level of transmission is almost inevitable. It’s about preventing cases and keeping it out of households.”

However, Professor Nolan added that fewer household clusters this week is an indication of a lower level of community transmission, a level which Public Health officials hope remains down but is likely to increase as visitor restrictions ease. 

Screenshot 2020-12-03 at 15.40.59 - Display 2 Source: HPSC

Outbreaks in schools have decreased in the last week. 

There were 12 outbreaks reported by the HPSC up to Saturday. There were 19 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 9,401. Of these, 5,524 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 21 outbreaks in workplace settings, bringing to 41 the number of outbreaks in this setting between 21 November and today. 

Finally, there have been 6 new outbreaks in nursing homes – 51 outbreaks in nursing homes remain “open”.

Between 21 November and last Saturday, the number of outbreaks across all settings had decreased by 54%. 

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