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Where is Ireland right now when it comes to Covid-19? Here's what the statistics available tell us

There have been more new confirmed cases already this month than in June and July combined.

Micheál Martin at yesterday's press conference with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Micheál Martin at yesterday's press conference with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Image: Julien Behal/Rollingnews.ie

YESTERDAY EVENING, THE message from the Taoiseach was grave.

“We are at another critical moment,” Micheál Martin said. “If we want to limit the number of people who get seriously ill or die because of the virus. We need to follow these public health measures. 

“We can’t go back. If we falter now every sacrifice we’ve made to date will be for nought.”

Accompanying this stark warning from the Taoiseach was a series of new measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 in Ireland. 

They include sports events and matches reverting to behind closed doors, the limiting of indoor and outdoor gatherings and asking older people to limit their interactions to a small network. 

At the weekend, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said we’ve seen multiple clusters and rising numbers of cases in many parts of the country and described this as “deeply concerning”.

“The virus is still out there and has not gone away,” he said. 

But where exactly are we at when it comes to Covid-19 at present? Let’s take a look. All of the below data is taken from data supplied by the Department of Health/HSE. 

Cases

headline figures Source: Sean Murray

The headline figure announced each day by the Department of Health is the number of new cases in Ireland.

Where the figures were relatively low in June and early July, they have begun to climb – often sharply – in recent weeks.

Yesterday, 190 new cases of Covid-19 were announced here. It brought the total number of confirmed cases here to 27,499.

Each day of August so far has had in excess of 30 new confirmed cases. 

On 8 August, 174 cases were announced – which was the highest for a number of months.

This was eclipsed on 15 August when 200 cases were announced.

The majority of cases this month so far have been in people under the age of 45. While classed – generally – as at a lower risk of getting seriously ill from the virus, spread among any section of the population brings a risk that those at higher risk from the virus can catch it.

There have been in excess of 1,400 new cases of Covid-19 so far this month. 

To put that in a bit more context, that’s more than the total number of cases in June and July combined.

It’s worth stressing, however, that the numbers we’re seeing now in terms of new cases aren’t directly comparable to the situation in mid-March where the daily numbers progressed quickly through double figures into triple figures and remained so for two months.

Comparing our situation to other countries, however, and it’s clear that where Ireland is has worsened compared to some of our European counterparts.

The latest data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says that Ireland has had 22.5 cases per 100,000 of population in the last fortnight.

This is ahead of the UK (20.4), Germany (15.3) and Italy (10.0). But countries faring worse include France (41.4), Sweden (39.4), Belgium (60.8) and Spain (132.2).

Where are these cases?

As we know, outbreaks in Direct Provision centres and meat plants precipitated the fresh restrictions brought in for Kildare, Laois and Offaly. 

This month so far – as of 16 August – there have been 431 confirmed cases in Kildare, 57 in Laois and 109 in Offaly.

In that same time, there have been 211 new cases reported in Dublin. 

It’s clear that Kildare is seeing the biggest rise in cases but – just yesterday – 38 were reported in Tipperary, 20 in Limerick and seven in Clare.

download (9) Source: Professor Philip Nolan/Twitter

Other counties seem to be faring far better. Again, as of 16 August, Leitrim has had just one confirmed cases this month. 

Yesterday, 75 of the 190 cases were associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed cases. A further 14 cases were of community transmission, which is where authorities cannot pinpoint where someone caught the virus. The source of outbreak in the remaining figures from yesterday were not confirmed. 

So far this month, there have been a further 183 clusters of the virus identified around the country.

The clusters are linked back – in Kildare, Laois and Offaly – to meat processing facilities but they live and work in the community. An estimated 400-500 of the 1,250 cases or so in the last two weeks are linked to meat factories or direct provision centres.

Dr Glynn has said that cases have been recorded as far west as Birr and Tullamore, as far east as Maynooth and Clane, and south as far as Abbeyleix and Durrow.

The cumulative incidence of the virus also indicates Carlow, Clare, Donegal, Limerick and Wexford have all been experiencing outbreaks in the past week – much smaller than Laois, Kildare, and Offaly – but outbreaks none the less that health authorities are concerned about.

The first two weeks of August were dominated by workplace, household and family outbreaks with few isolated or sporadic cases. However, the latest statistics show workplace outbreaks decreasing and an increasing number of cases that authorities have not been able to find a link to as of yet.

download (7)

Testing

In the past seven days, there have 55,129 Covid-19 tests completed with a positivity rate of 1.3%. The total number of tests completed in the last 24 hours is 4,339 and a total of 729,913 tests have been completed in total. 

The government has been criticised, however, for the slowdown in its testing and tracing system in recent weeks.

This has come as the number of cases has risen sharply, and the number of people coming forward for a test has risen. Contact tracers have also had their workload increase as the number of cases has risen. 

According to the HSE, the average time from referral to an appointment in the last seven days was 0.9 days with an average of 1.3 days from a swab being taken to a result. 

When it comes to contact tracing, it’s taking an average of 1.8 days to make all of the calls required.

Hospitals

Despite the rise in cases, our hospitals are not facing the same kind of pressure – yet – that they had at the outset of the pandemic. 

As of 8am this morning, there were 17 people confirmed to have Covid-19 being treated in hospital. Last night, hospitals in Ireland were treating a further 137 suspected cases of Covid-19.

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Also this morning, there six Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit. Again, this is very low and well below the peak of 140 patients in April. 

Last night, there four confirmed Covid-19 patients on ventilators.

All along, it has been stressed that Ireland’s health system would struggle to cope with a huge surge in Covid-19 cases and the latest figures from the HSE bear that out. 

Last night, there were 426 critical care beds in the system. Of these, 348 of them were open and staffed.

But, 285 of them were occupied meaning that there were 31 available public critical care beds.

The HSE stressed – on this figure of 31 – that “due to the dynamic nature of reporting, available beds may differ depending on capacity and reserved status at individual sites for critical care beds”. 

It is clear that a surge in demand for such beds in the coming months will put a strain on the health service. 

Deaths

It is here that the figures also remain quite low at present. There have so far been 1,775 deaths confirmed from Covid-19 in Ireland, with one more person confirmed to have died yesterday. 

Five confirmed deaths on 6 August was the highest reported for several weeks, with many days seeing no new deaths recorded with the virus. 

However, as the virus continues to spread and cases rise, the government has warned that the death toll is likely to rise again as a result. 

At last night’s press conference, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Yes, we have been successful in keeping the number of deaths low – but if the current increase continues it will be impossible to stop the spread of the virus to our most vulnerable and most compromised.

And the virus is as deadly today as it was before. Until there is a vaccine we have to keep our guard up. We have to suppress the virus in order to progress… We have to accept that we have to recommit ourselves to accepting the reality of the continued threat of the virus. Now, as much as ever before, we must remember our responsibilities to each other.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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